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THE . 



Translated from the Russian MS. 


With Introduction by Translator . 






THIS little book shows, in a short, clear, and 
systematic manner, how the principle of Non- 
Kesistance, about which Tolstoy has written so 
much, is related to economic and political life. 

The great majority of men, without knowing 
why, are constrained to labour long hours at 
tasks they dislike, and often to live in unhealthy 
conditions. It is not that man has so little 
control over nature that to obtain a subsistence 
it is necessary to work in this way, but because 
men have made laws about land, taxes, and pro- 
perty, which result in placing the great bulk of 
the people in conditions which compel them to 
labour thus, or go to the workhouse, or starve. 

It may be said that man's nature is so bad 
that were it not for these laws an even worse 
state of things would exist ; that the laws we 
make and tolerate are outward and visible signs 
of an inward and spiritual disgrace the selfish- 
ness of man, which is the real root of the evil. 
But granting that, in a sense, this may be true, 
we need not suppose man's nature to be im- 
mutable, and all progress for ever impossible. 
Nor need we suppose it our duty to leave pro- 


gress in the hands of some kind of a self-acting 
evolution, whose operations we can only watch 
as a passenger watches the working of a ship's 
engines. We may consider the effect of the 
laws we have made, approve or disapprove of 
them, discern the direction in which it is possible 
to advance, and take our part in furthering or 
hampering that advance. 

Laws are made by Governments, and are 
enforced by physical violence. We have been 
so long taught that it is good for some people to 
make laws for others, that most men approve of 
this. Just as " genteel " people have been known 
to approve of wholesale while they turned up 
their noses at retail business, so people in 
general, while disapproving of robbery and 
murder when done on a small scale, admire 
them when they are organised, and when they 
result in allotting most of the land on which forty 
millions have to live to a few thousands, and in 
periodically sending out thousands of men to kill 
and to be killed. Nor are people much shocked 
at isolated murders, the responsibility for which 
is subdivided between the Queen, the hangman, 
the judge, jury, and officials. 

To Tolstoy's mind, violence done by man to 
man is wrong. We cannot escape the wrong- 
ness by doing it wholesale, or by subdividing the 

But what would happen if we ceased to 
abet it ? 


If it were possible forcibly to oblige men to 
cease from using force, the selfishness which is 
at the root of the matter would, no doubt, burst 
out in some fresh form. That is, in fact, pretty 
much what has happened : weary of strife and 
private feuds, people consented to leave to 
Governments the use of force. External peace 
among individuals has ensued, but in place of 
strife with club or sword, a new struggle almost 
as fierce is carried on under legal and com- 
mercial forms. Tolstoy's desire is not that people 
should be compelled to cease from violence, but 
that violence should become to them abhorrent, 
and that they should not wish to sway others 
more than they can be swayed by reason and by 
sympathy. Were that accomplished, surely we 
may trust that good would come of good, as now 
ill comes of ill. At anyrate, as Tolstoy shows, 
there is no other path of advance. We can 
neither revert to the belief that to use violence 
is a divine right of kings, nor can we maintain 
the current belief that to do so is a divine right 
of majorities. To be subjected by force to a rule 
we disapprove of is slavery, and we are all slaves 
or slave-owners (sometimes both together) as long 
as our society bases itself on violence. 

But can we abolish the use of violence, and 
cease to imprison and kill our fellow-men ? 

We can at least consider what Tolstoy says on 
the matter, and realise that organised violence 
exists claiming our approval, and that it is 


possible to withhold that approval. As for 
abolishing violence it is for us not a question 
of yes or no, but it is a question of more or less. 
The amount of violence committed depends on 
the amount of support the violators receive. 
There are places where it is now impossible to 
get anyone to become a hangman, and even in 
England, comparatively brutal as we are, it 
would be impossible to re-enact the penal code 
of George m., under which 160 different crimes 
were punishable with death. To shake ourselves 
completely free from all share in violence, if we 
are not quite ready to become martyrs, may seem 
and does seem impossible. Tolstoy himself does 
not profess to have ceased to use postage-stamps 
which are issued, or the highway that is main- 
tained, by a Government which collects taxes by 
force ; but reforms come by men doing what they 
can, not what they can't. It would be a very easy, 
and a very silly, reply to the teaching of Jesus, 
to say that as He tells us to be perfect, and we 
can't be perfect, we can get no guidance from 
His teaching. In the same way anyone who 
wishes to be logical but not reasonable, may say 
that as Tolstoy tells us to stand aside from all 
violence, and as we cannot do so, his guidance is 
useless. Tolstoy relies on his readers to use 
common sense, and the common sense of the 
matter is, that if we are so enmeshed in a system 
based on violence, and if we ourselves are so 
weak and faulty, that we cannot avoid being 


parties to acts of violence, we should avoid this 
as much as we can. 

The mind is more free than the body, let us, 
at least, try to understand the truth of the 
matter, and not excuse a vicious system in order 
to shelter ourselves. When we have understood 
the matter, let us not fear to speak out ; and 
when we have confessed our views, let us try to 
bring our lives more and more in harmony with 

To free ourselves from the perplexity pro- 
duced by the dual standard of legality and of 
right, would alone be an enormous gain. Take, 
for instance, the drink traffic in England ; what 
friction and waste of power has resulted from 
the attempts to legislate on the matter. How 
greatly brewers, distillers, and dealers have 
gained in respectability by the fact that their 
occupations were legal, if not right. And is it 
not becoming evident that it is not by laws 
that such evils as the drink trade can be met ? 

But, we are told, people are so inconsiderate 
and so wrong-headed that nothing but the strong 
arm of the law will restrain them. To disturb 
their respect for the law is dangerous. 

Of course it is dangerous ! Every great 
moral movement and every strong reform move- 
ment has its very real dangers. A century and 
a half after St. Francis of Assisi had stirred 
Europe by his example of self-renunciation and 
devotion to the service of others, such a crowd 


of impudent mendicants shirking the drudgery 
of a workaday world were preying on society 
in his name, that Wyclif denounced them as 
sturdy beggars, and strongly censured any " man 
who gives alms to a begging friar." 

History is apt to repeat itself in such matters, 
and, no doubt, Tolstoy's views will be again and 
again exploited by unworthy disciples. But is 
humanity to stagnate because what is evil is so 
easily grafted on what is good ? To think and 
to move may be dangerous, but to stagnate is to 
die ; and progress along the path of violence as 
Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Eome, Spain, and many 
other nations have shown is progress to de- 

No doubt, too, many good people will be 
shocked at Tolstoy's statement that " Laws are 
rules made by people who govern by means of 
organised violence." They will plead that, in 
modern Governments, the administrative func- 
tions are becoming more and more predominant, 
and the coercive ones are falling more and more 
into abeyance. But the reply is, that Govern- 
ments need only drop these dwindling and 
secondary functions in order to escape the criti- 
cism here levelled at them. Governments which, 
without insisting on having their services accepted, 
are content to offer to organise society on a 
voluntary basis killing no one, imprisoning no 
one, and relying on reason and persuasion to make 
their decrees prevail are not here attacked. 


And whatever good-natured people may wish 
to believe about Governments, the fact is that 
existing Governments rely on force, and that 
when they do not rely on force we do not call 
them Governments, but voluntary associations. 

That men concerned in governing others know 
this, is shown all through history, and has been 
again shown recently in South Africa. As long 
as Kruger and his party had the armed force, 
the Boer reform party, the miners, and even 
Messrs. Beit, Ehodes, & Co., had to submit. In 
the time of the Raid the question who, in future, 
should make the laws, hung in the balance it 
might be Kruger, or Rhodes, or somebody else ; 
but it was sure to be the man, or men, who 
could obtain the advantage of being allowed 
openly, systematically, and unblushingly, to do 
violence to those who disobeyed them. Men 
who were organising the buccaneers one day, 
might become (and may yet become) a " Govern- 
ment " another day. In fact, just as in Sparta 
it was considered immoral, not to thieve, but to 
be caught thieving, so among modern moralists 
(such as Paley) it has been gravely argued that 
the morality of using violence against the men 
in power depends on the chance of being suc- 

Tolstoy says that the systematic use of 
organised violence lies at the root of the ills 
from which our society suffers ; and while agree- 
ing in the indictment Socialism brings against 


the present system, he points out that the 
establishment of a Socialist State would involve 
the enforcement of a fresh form of slavery 
direct compulsion to labour. And if he is not 
at one with the Socialists, neither is he at one 
with the Eevolutionary party of Kussian Anar- 
chists usually spoken of in England as " Nihilists." 
They, indeed, are often very bitter in their 
denunciations of Tolstoy, whose influence has 
increased the moral repugnance felt for their 
policy of assassination. Their accusation that 
Tolstoy wishes to oppose despotism by mere 
metaphysics is, however, met in the present work 
by a direct and explicit appeal to conscientious 
people not voluntarily to pay taxes to Govern- 
ments which spend the money on organising 
violence and murder. 

This view of the duty of individuals towards 
Governments has had exponents in our own 
language. The saintly Quaker John Woolman 
wrote in his journal in 1 7 5 7 

" A few years past, money being made current 
in our province for carrying on wars, and to be 
called in again by taxes laid on the inhabitants, 
my mind was often affected with the thoughts of 
paying such taxes . . . there was in the depth 
of my mind a scruple which I never could get 
over ; and at certain times I was greatly dis- 
tressed on that account. I believed that there 
were some upright-hearted men who paid such 
taxes, yet could not see that their example was a 


sufficient reason for me to do so, while I believe 
that the spirit of truth required of me, as an 
individual, to suffer patiently the distress of 
goods, rather than pay actively." He found he 
was not alone among the Friends of Philadelphia 
in this matter. 

Nearly a century later Henry Thoreau wrote 
in his admirable essay on " Civil Disobedience " 

" I heartily accept the motto ' That Govern- 
ment is best which governs least ' ; and I should 
like to see it acted up to more rapidly and 
systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts 
to this, which also I believe, ' That Government 
is best which governs not at all ' ; and when 
men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of 
Government which they will have. . . . 

" It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, 
to devote himself to the eradication of any, even 
the most enormous wrong ; he may properly 
have other concerns to engage him ; but it is his 
duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if 
he gives it no thought longer, not to give it 
practically his support. 

" I do not hesitate to say that those who call 
themselves Abolitionists should at once effectually 
withdraw their support, both in person and 
property, from the Government of Massachusetts, 
and not wait till they constitute a majority 
of one, before they suffer the right to prevail 
through them. I think it is enough if they have 
God on their side, without waiting for that other 


one. Moreover, any man more right than his 
neighbours constitutes a majority of one already." 

Holding these views, he refused to pay the 
poll-tax, and was put in prison for one night, 
till someone paid the tax for him much to his 

Tolstoy, therefore, is in good company in 
holding the view that it were better to offer a 
passive resistance to Governments than volun- 
tarily to pay what they demand and misapply. 
Such refusals might bring about the bloodless 
revolution of which Thoreau spoke 

" If a thousand men were not to pay their tax 
bills this year, that would not be a violent and 
bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and 
enable the State to commit violence and shed 
innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of 
a peaceful revolution, if any such is possible. If 
the tax-gatherer or any other public officer asks 
me, as one has done, ' But what shall I do ? ' my 
answer is, ' If you really wish to do anything, 
resign your office.' When the subject has 
refused allegiance, and the officer has resigned 
his office, then the revolution is accomplished." 

But while we remember that Tolstoy is in 
good company in this matter, and that he here 
offers just what some people pine for something 
definite and decided to do or to refuse to do we 
shall, I think, make a sad mistake if we fail to dif- 
ferentiate between the main intention and drift of 
his work, and such a piece of practical advice as this. 


The main intention and drift of the work is to 
show that progress in human well-being can only 
be achieved by relying more and more on reason 
and conscience, and less and less on man-made 
laws ; that we must be ready to sacrifice the 
material progress we have been taught to esteem 
so highly, rather than acquiesce in such injustice 
and inequality as is flagrant among us to-day ; 
that what we desire is the supremacy of truth 
and goodness, and that consequently violence from 
man to man must more and more be recognised 
as evil, whether it boasts itself in high places 
or lurks in slums and that we must more and 
more free ourselves from the taint of murder that 
clings to all robes of state. 

These things, to my mind, seem certainly true ; 
we must turn our back on the religion of Jesus 
if we would rebut them. 

But as soon as it comes to any definite precept 
and external rule to do this, or not to do that 
there is room for reply. What is really needed, 
and what Tolstoy is aiming at, is that mankind 
should steadily advance towards perfection, and 
no one action can be the next step for all men in 
all places. So when we come to the injunction 
to pay no tax, we may remember the passage 
(Matt. xvii. 2427) in which Jesus is reported to 
have told Peter to catch fish and pay the tax for 
them both. The passage seems to mean : " We 
are in no way bound to pay, but if they demand 
the tax of you, give it, not because you are under 


any obligation, but because we must not resist 
him that is evil. If any man would take your 
cloak, give him your coat also." And that is 
what Tolstoy thought it meant when he wrote 
The Four Gospels. 

In the present work, however, he is not inter- 
preting the Gospels, but is dealing with present 
problems on the plane of thought of the jurists 
and the economists. And whatever may be the 
best method of undermining the authority of the 
prince of this world, his condemnation by Jesus 
makes in the same direction as Thoreau's " Civil 
Disobedience " and Tolstoy's theory of " Non- 
Eesistance." Each in his own way says, " The 
kings of the Gentiles have lordship over them ; 
and they that have authority over them are 
called Benefactors. But ye shall not be so : but 
he that is the greater among you, let him become 
as the younger ; and he that is chief, as he that 
doth serve" (Luke xxii. 25, 26). 

The prince of this world is judged, the change 
foreshadowed is a vast one, and must commence 
with a change of each man's inner self. But its 
outward manifestations may be as various as the 
flowers of the field which are all fed by the same 
rain and sunshine from above. 

October 1900. 



AUTOGRAPH .... Frontispiece 


AUTHOR'S PREFACE . . . . . 19 

EPIGRAPHS . . . . . .21 





SCIENCE . , . . . .34 


SYSTEM . . . . . .39 


FALSE ...... 48 




IX. WHAT IS SLAVERY? . . . .71 






VIOLENCE . . . . .88 







" They that take the sword shall perish with the sword." 

NEARLY fifteen years ago the census in Moscow 
evoked in me a series of thoughts and feelings 
which I expressed, as best I could, in a book 
called What Must We Do Then? Towards the 
end of last year (1899) I once more reconsidered 
the same questions, and the conclusions to which 
I came were the same as in that book. But, as 
I think that during these fifteen years I have re- 
flected on the questions discussed in What Must 
We Do Then ? more quietly and minutely, in 
relation to the teachings at present existing and 
diffused among us, I now offer the reader new con- 
siderations leading to the same replies as before. 
I think these considerations may be of use to 
people who are honestly trying to elucidate their 
position in society, and to clearly define the 
moral obligations flowing from that position. I 
therefore publish them. 

The fundamental thought, both of that book 



and of this, is the repudiation of violence. 
That repudiation I learnt, and understood, from 
the Gospels, where it is most clearly expressed 
in the words, " It was said to you, An eye for 
an eye," . . . i.e. you have been taught to oppose 
violence by violence, but I teach you : turn the 
other cheek when you are struck ; i.e. suffer viol- 
ence, but do not employ it. I know that the 
use of those great words in consequence of the 
unreflectingly perverted interpretations alike of 
Liberals and of Churchmen, who on this matter 
agree will be a reason for most so-called cul- 
tured people not to read this article, or to be 
biassed against it ; but nevertheless I place those 
words as the epigraph of this work. 

I cannot prevent people who consider them- 
selves enlightened, from considering the gospel 
teaching to be an obsolete guide to life a guide 
long outlived by humanity. But I can indicate 
the source from which I drew my consciousness 
of a truth which people are yet far from recog- 
nising, and which alone can save men from their 
sufferings. And this I do 

Uth July 1900. 

YE have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth 
for a tooth. Matt. v. 38 ; Ex. xxi. 24. 

But I say unto you, Resist not him that is evil : but whoso- 
ever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other 
also. Matt. v. 39. 

And if any man would go to law with thee, and take away 
thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. Matt. v. 40. 

Give to every one that asketh thee ; and of him that taketh 
away thy goods ask them not again. Luke vi. 30. 

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to 
them likewise. Luke vi. 31. 

And all that believed were together, and had all things 
common. Acts ii. 44. 

And Jesus said, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair 
weather : for the heaven is red. Matt. xvi. 2. 

And in the morning, It will be foul weather to-day : for the 
heaven is red and lowring. Ye hypocrites, ye know how to 
discern the face of the heaven ; but ye cannot discern the 
signs of the times. Matt. xvi. 3. 

The system on which all the nations of the world are acting, 
is founded in gross deception, in the deepest ignorance, or a 
mixture of both : so that under no possible modification of 
the principles on which it is based can it ever produce good 
to man ; on the contrary, its practical results must ever be to 
produce evil continually. ROBEET OWEX. 

We have much studied and much perfected, of late, the 
great civilised invention of the division of labour ; only we give 
it a false name. It is not, truly speaking, the labour that is 
divided, but the men : Divided into mere segments of men 
broken into small fragments and crumbs of life ; so that all the 
little piece of intelligence that is left in a man is not enough 

to make a pin or a nail, but exhausts itself in making the 
point of a pin or the head of a nail. Now it is a good and 
desirable thing, truly, to make many pins a day ; but if we 
could only see with what crystal sand their points were 
polished, sand of human souls, we should think there 
might be some loss in it also. 

Men may be beaten, chained, tormented, yoked like cattle, 
slaughtered like summer flies, and yet remain in one sense, 
and the best sense, free. But to smother their souls within 
them, to blight and hew into rotting pollards the suckling 
branches of their human intelligence, to make the flesh and 
skin . . . into leathern thongs to yoke machinery with, 
this is to be slave -masters indeed. ... It is verily this 
degradation of the operative into a machine, which is leading 
the mass of the nations into vain, incoherent, destructive 
struggling for a freedom of which they cannot explain the 
nature to themselves. Their universal outcry against wealth, 
and against nobility, is not forced from them either by the 
pressure of famine or the sting of mortified pride. These do 
much and have done much in all ages ; but the foundations of 
society were never yet shaken as they are at this day. 

It is not that men are ill-fed, but that they have no pleasure 
in the work by which they make their bread, and therefore 
look to wealth as the only means of pleasure. 

It is not that men are pained by the scorn of the upper 
classes, but they cannot endure their own ; for they feel that 
the kind of labour to which they are condemned is verily a 
degrading one, and makes them less than men. Never had 
the upper classes so much sympathy with the lower, or charity 
for them, as they have at this day, and yet never were they so 
much hated by them. From The, Stones of Venice, by John 
Ruskin, vol. ii. chap. vi. 13-16. 




AN acquaintance of mine, who serves on the 
Moscow-Kursk Railway as a weigher, in the 
course of conversation mentioned to me that 
the men who load the goods on to his scales 
work for thirty-six hours on end. 

Though I had full confidence in the speaker's 
truthfulness, I was unable to believe him. I 
thought he was making a mistake, or exaggerat- 
ing, or that I misunderstood something. 

But the weigher narrated the conditions under 
which this work is done, so exactly that there was 
no room left for doubt. He told me that there 
are two hundred and fifty such goods-porters at 
the Kursk Station in Moscow. They were all 
divided into gangs of five men, and were on 



piece-work, receiving from 1 rouble to K. 1.15 
(say 2s. to 2s. 4d.) for one thousand poods (over 
sixteen tons) of goods received or despatched. 

They come in the morning, work all day and 
all night at unloading the trucks, and, when the 
night is ended, they again begin to reload, and 
then work on for another day. So that in two 
days they get one night's sleep. 

Their work consists of unloading and moving 
bales of seven, eight, and up to ten poods (say 
eighteen, twenty, and up to nearly twenty-six 
stone). Two men place the bales on the backs 
of the other three, who carry them. By such 
work they earn less than a rouble (2s.) a day. 
They work continually, without holidays. 

The account given by the weigher was so 
circumstantial that it was impossible to doubt 
it ; but, nevertheless, I decided to verify it with 
my own eyes, and I went to the Goods Station. 

Finding my acquaintance at the Goods Station, 
I told him I had come to see what he had told 
me about. 

" No one I mention it to believes it," said I. 

Without replying to me, the weigher called to 
someone in a shed : " Nikita, come here." 

From the door appeared a tall, lean workman 
in a torn coat. 

" When did you begin work ? " 

" When ? Yesterday morning." 

" And where were you last night ? " 


" I was unloading, of course." 

" Did you work during the night ? " asked I. 

" Of course we worked." 

" And when did you begin work to-day ? " 

" We began in the morning when else should 
we begin ? " 

" And when will you finish working ? " 

" When they let us go ; then we finish ! " 

The four other workmen of his gang came up 
to us. They all wore torn coats and were with- 
out overcoats, though there were about twenty 
degrees Be"aumur of cold (thirteen degrees below 
zero, Fahrenheit). 

I began to ask them about the conditions of 
their work, and evidently surprised them by 
taking an interest in such a simple and natural 
thing (as it seemed to them) as their thirty-six- 
hour work. 

They were all villagers ; for the most part 
fellow-countrymen of my own, from Tula. Some, 
however, were from Orla, and some from Voronesh. 
They lived in Moscow in lodgings ; some of them 
with their families, but most of them without. 
Those who have come here alone send their 
earnings home to the village. 

They board with contractors. Their food costs 
them Es. 10 (say 1, Is.) per month. They 
always eat meat, disregarding the fasts. 

Their work always keeps them occupied more 
than thirty-six hours running, because it takes 


more than half an hour to get to their lodgings 
and from their lodgings ; and besides, they are 
often kept at work beyond the time fixed. 

Paying for their own food, they earn by 
such thirty-seven-hour-on-end work about Es. 25 
(2, 12s. 6d.) a month. 

To my question, " Why they did such convict 
work ? " they replied 

" Where is one to go to ? " 

" But why work thirty-six hours on end ? 
Cannot the work be arranged in shifts ? " 

" We do what we're told to." 

" Yes ; but why do you agree to it ? " 

" We agree because we have to feed ourselves. 
' If you don't like it, be off.' If one's even an 
hour late, one has one's ticket shied at one, and 
are told to march ; and there are ten men ready 
to take the place." 

The men were all young ; only one was some- 
what older, perhaps about forty. All their faces 
were lean, and had exhausted, weary eyes, as 
though the men were drunk. The lean workman 
to whom I first spoke struck me especially by 
the strange weariness of his look. I asked him 
whether he had not been drinking to-day ? 

" I don't drink," answered he, in the decided 
way in which men who really do not drink 
always reply to that question. 

" And I do not smoke," added he. 

" Do the others drink ? " asked I. 


" Yes, it's brought here." 

""The work is not light, and a drink always 
adds to one strength," said the older workman. 

This man had been drinking that day, but it 
was not in the least noticeable. 

After some more talk with the workmen, I 
went to watch the work. 

Passing long rows of all sorts of goods, I came 
to some workmen slowly pushing a loaded truck. 
I learned afterwards that the men have to shunt 
the trucks themselves, and to keep the platform 
clear of snow, without being paid for the work. 
It is so stated in the " Conditions of Pay." These 
workmen were just as tattered and emaciated as 
those with whom I had been talking. When 
they had moved the truck to its place, I went up 
to them and asked when they had begun work, 
and when they had dined. 

I was told that they started work at seven 
o'clock, and had only just dined. The work had 
prevented their being let off sooner. 

" And when do you get away ? " 

" As it happens ; sometimes not till ten 
o'clock," replied the men, as if boasting of their 
endurance. Seeing my interest in their position, 
they surrounded me, and probably taking me for 
an inspector, several of them, speaking at once, 
informed me of what was evidently their chief 
subject of complaint, namely, that the apartment 
in which they could sometimes warm themselves, 


and snatch an hour's sleep between the day-work 
and the night-work, was crowded. All of them 
expressed great dissatisfaction at this crowding. 

" There may be one hundred men, and no- 
where to lie down even under the shelves it is 
crowded," said dissatisfied voices. " Have a look 
at it yourself it is close here." 

The room was certainly not large enough. In 
the thirty-six foot room, about forty men might 
find place to lie down on the shelves. 

Some of the men entered the room with me, 
and they vied with each other in complaining of 
the scantiness of the accommodation. 

" Even under the shelves there is nowhere to 
lie down," said they. 

These men who in twenty degrees of frost, 
without overcoats, carry on their backs twenty 
stone loads during thirty-six hours ; who dine 
and sup, not when they need food, but when 
their overseer allows them to eat ; who live alto- 
gether in conditions far worse than those of dray- 
horses it seemed strange that these people only 
complained of insufficient accommodation in the 
room where they warm themselves. But though 
this seemed to me strange at first, yet, entering 
further into their position, I understood what a 
feeling of torture these men, who never get 
enough sleep and who are half-frozen, must ex- 
perience when, instead of resting and being 
warmed, they have to creep on the dirty floor 



under the shelves, and there, in stuffy and viti- 
ated air, become yet weaker and more broken 

Only, perhaps, in that miserable hour of vain 
attempt to get rest and sleep do they painfully 
realise all the horror of their life-destroying 
thirty-seven-hour work, and that is why they 
are specially agitated by such an apparently 
insignificant circumstance as the overcrowding 
of their room. 

Having watched several gangs at work, and 
having talked with some more of the men, and 
heard the same story from them all, I drove 
home, convinced that what my acquaintance had 
told me was true. 

It was true, that for a bare subsistence, 
people, considering themselves free men, thought 
it necessary to give themselves up to work such 
as, in the days of serfdom, not one slave-owner, 
however cruel, would have sent his slaves to. 
Let alone slave-owners, not one cab proprietor 
would send his horses to such work, for horses 
cost money, and it would be wasteful, by ex- 
cessive thirty-seven-hour work, to shorten the 
life of an animal of value. 



To oblige men to work for thirty-seven hours 
continuously without sleep, besides being cruel, is 
also uneconomical. And yet such uneconomical 
expenditure of human lives continually goes on 
around us. 

Opposite the house in which I live l is a silk- 
factory, built with the latest technical im- 
provements. About three thousand women and 
seven hundred men work and live there. As 
I sit in my room now, I hear the unceasing 
din of the machinery, and know for I have 
been there what that din means. Three 
thousand women stand, for twelve hours a day, 
at the looms, amid a deafening roar ; winding, 
unwinding, arranging the silk threads to make 
silk stuffs. All the women (except those who 
have just come from the villages) have an un- 
healthy appearance. Most of them lead a most 
intemperate and immoral life. Almost all, 

1 This evidently relates to his wife's house in Moscow, where 

Tolstoy spends the winter months. (Trans.). 


whether married or unmarried, as soon as a 
child is born to them, send it oft' either to the 
village or to the Foundlings' Hospital where 
80 per cent, of these children perish. For fear 
of losing their places, the mothers resume work 
the next day, or on the third day, after their 

So that during twenty years, to my know- 
ledge, tens of thousands of young, healthy women 
mothers have ruined, and are now ruining, 
their lives, and the lives of their children, in 
order to produce velvets and silk stuffs. 

I met a beggar yesterday, a young man on 
crutches, sturdily built, but crippled. He used 
to work as a navvy, with a wheelbarrow, but 
slipped and injured himself internally. He spent 
all he had on peasant women healers and on 
doctors, and has now for eight years been home- 
less, begging his bread, and complaining that 
God does not send him death. 

How many such sacrifices of life there are, 
that we either know nothing of, or know of, but 
hardly notice considering them inevitable. 

I know men working at the blast furnaces of 
the Tula Iron Foundry, who, to have one Sunday 
free each fortnight, will work for twenty-four 
hours ; that is, after working all day, they will 
go on working all night. I have seen these 
men. They all drink vddka to keep up their 
energy ; and, obviously, like those goods-porters on 


the railway, they quickly expend not the interest, 
but the capital of their lives. 

And what of the waste of lives among those 
who are employed on admittedly harmful work : 
in looking-glass, card, match, sugar, tobacco, and 
glass factories; in mines, or as cesspool cleaners. 

There are English statistics showing that the 
average length of life among people of the upper 
classes is fifty-five years, and the average of life 
among working people in unhealthy occupations 
is twenty-nine years. 

Knowing this (and we cannot help knowing 
it), we, who take advantage of labour that thus 
costs human lives should, one would think 
(unless we are beasts), not be able to enjoy a 
moment's peace. But the fact is that we well- 
to-do people, Liberals and Humanitarians, very 
sensitive to the sufferings not of people only but 
also of animals unceasingly make use of such 
labour, and try to become more and more rich, 
i.e. to take more and more advantage of such 
work. And we remain perfectly tranquil. 

For instance, having learned of the thirty - 
seven-hour labour of the goods-porters and of 
their bad room, we at once send there an inspector 
(who receives a good salary), and we forbid people 
to work more than twelve hours, leaving the 
workmen (who are thus deprived of one-third of 
their earnings) to feed themselves as best they 
can ; and we compel the Eailway Company to 


erect a large and convenient room for the work- 
men. Then with perfectly quiet consciences we 
continue to receive and despatch goods by that 
railway, and we ourselves continue to receive 
salaries, dividends, rents from houses or from 
land, etc. Having learned that the women and 
girls at the silk factory, living far from their 
families, ruin their own lives and those of their 
children ; and that a large half of the washer- 
women who iron our starched shirts, and of the 
type-setters who print the books and papers that 
wile away our time, get consumption we only 
shrug our shoulders and say that we are very 
sorry things should be so, but that we can do 
nothing to alter it ; and we continue with 
tranquil consciences to buy silk stuffs, to wear 
starched shirts, and to read our morning paper. 
We are much concerned about the hours of the 
shop assistants, and still more about the long 
hours of our own children at school ; we strictly 
forbid carters to make their horses drag heavy 
loads, and we even organise the killing of cattle 
in slaughter-houses so that the animals may 
feel it as little as possible. But how wonder- 
fully blind we become as soon as the question 
concerns those millions of workers who perish 
slowly, and often painfully, all around us, at 
labours the fruits of which we use for our con- 
venience and pleasure. 



THIS wonderful blindness which befalls people of 
our circle can only be explained by the fact that 
when people behave badly they always invent a 
philosophy of life which represents their bad 
actions to be not bad actions at all, but merely 
results of unalterable laws beyond our control. 
In former times such a view of life was found 
in the theory that an inscrutable and unalterable 
will of God existed which foreordained to some 
men a humble position and hard work, and to 
others an exalted position and the enjoyment of 
the good things of life. 

On this theme an enormous quantity of books 
were written, and an innumerable quantity of 
sermons preached. The theme was worked up 
from every possible side. It was demonstrated 
that God created different sorts of people: slaves 
and masters; and that both should be satisfied 
with their position. It was further demonstrated 
that it would be better for the slaves in the next 



world ; and afterwards it was shown that although 
the slaves were slaves, and ought to remain such, 
yet their condition would not be bad if the 
masters would be kind to them. Then the very 
last explanation, after the emancipation of the 
slaves, 1 was that wealth is entrusted by God 
to some people in order that they may use 
part of it in good works ; and so there is no 
harm in some people being rich and others 

These explanations satisfied the rich and the 
poor (especially the rich) for a long time. But 
the day came when these explanations became 
unsatisfactory, especially to the poor, who began 
to understand their position. Then fresh ex- 
planations were needed. And, just at the proper 
time, they were produced. 2 These new explana- 
tions came in the form of science : political 
economy, which declared that it had discovered 
the laws which regulate the division of labour 
and the distribution of the products of labour 
among men. These laws, according to that 
science, are : that the division of labour and the 
enjoyment of its products depend on supply 
and demand, on capital, rent, wages of labour, 

1 The serfs in Russia and the slaves in the United States of 
America were emancipated at the same time 1861-64. 

2 The first volume of Karl Marx's Kapital appeared in 1867. 


values, profits, etc. ; in general, on unalterable 
laws governing man's economic activities. 

Soon, on this theme as many books and 
pamphlets were written and lectures delivered 
as there had been treatises written and religious 
sermons preached on the former theme ; and still, 
unceasingly, mountains of pamphlets and books 
are being written, and lectures are being de- 
livered ; and all these books and lectures are 
as cloudy and unintelligible as the theological 
treatises and sermons ; and they too, like the 
theological treatises, fully achieve their appointed 
purpose, i.e. they give such an explanation of the 
existing order of things as justifies some people 
in tranquilly refraining from labour and in 
utilising the labour of others. 

The fact that, for the investigation of this 
pseudo-science, there was taken to show the 
general order of things, not the condition of 
people in the whole world, through all historic 
time, but only the condition of people in a small 
country, in most exceptional circumstances 
England at the end of the eighteenth and the 
beginning of the nineteenth centuries l this 

1 Compare Walter Bagehot's words 

"The world which our political economists treat of is a very 
limited and peculiar world also. They (people) often imagine 
that what they read is applicable to all states of society, and 
to all equally ; whereas it is only true of and only proved as 
to states of society in which commerce has largely developed, 
and where it has taken the form of development, or something 


fact did not in the least hinder the acceptance 
as valid of the results to which the investigators 
arrived, any more than a similar acceptance is 
now hindered by the endless disputes and dis- 
agreements among those who study that science 
and are quite unable to agree as to the mean- 
ing of rent, surplus value, profits, etc. Only 
the one fundamental position of that science is 
acknowledged by all, namely, that the relations 
among men are conditioned, not by what people 
consider right or wrong, but by what is advan- 
tageous for those who occupy an advantageous 

It is admitted as an undoubted truth, that if 
in society many thieves and robbers have sprung 
up, who take from the labourers the fruits of 
their labour, this happens not because the thieves 
and robbers have acted badly, but because such 
are the inevitable economic laws, which can only 
be altered slowly, by an evolutionary process 
indicated by science ; and therefore, according to 
the guidance of science, people belonging to the 
class of robbers, thieves, or receivers of stolen 
goods, may quietly continue to utilise the things 
obtained by theft and robbery. 

Though the majority of people in our world do 
not know the details of these tranquillising scien- 
tific explanations, any more than they formerly 

near the form, which it has taken in England." The Postul- 
ates of Political Economy. (Trans.). 


knew the details of the theological explanations 
which justified their position, yet they all know 
that an explanation exists ; that scientific men, 
wise men, have proved convincingly, and con- 
tinue to prove, that the existing order of things 
is what it ought to be, and that therefore we 
may live quietly in this order of things without 
ourselves trying to alter it. 

Only in this way can I explain the amazing 
blindness of good people of our society, who 
sincerely desire the welfare of animals, but yet 
with quiet consciences devour the lives of their 



THE theory that it is God's will that some people 
should own others, satisfied people for a very 
long time. But that theory, by justifying 
cruelty, caused such cruelty as evoked resist- 
ance, and produced doubts as to the truth of 
the theory. 

So now with the theory that an economic 
evolution, guided by inevitable laws, is progress- 
ing, in consequence of which some people must 
collect capital, and others must labour all their 
lives to increase those capitals, preparing them- 
selves meanwhile for the promised communalisa- 
tion of the means of production ; this theory, 
causing some people to be yet more cruel to 
others, also begins (especially among common 
people not stupefied by science) to evoke certain 

For instance, you see goods-porters destroying 
their lives by thirty-seven-hour labour, or women 



in factories, or laundresses, or type-setters, or all 
those millions of people who live in hard, unna- 
tural conditions of monotonous, stupefying, slavish 
toil, and you naturally ask : what has brought 
these people to such a state ? and how are they 
to be delivered from it ? And science replies, 
that these people are in this condition because the 
railway belongs to this Company, the silk factory 
to that gentleman, and all the foundries, factories, 
printing shops, and laundries, to capitalists ; and 
that this state of things will come right by 
workpeople forming unions, co-operative societies, 
strikes, and taking part in government, and 
more and more swaying the masters and the 
government, till the workers obtain first, shorter 
hours and increased wages, and finally, all the 
means of production into their hands ; and then 
all will be well. Meanwhile all is going on as 
it should go, and there is no need to alter any- 

This answer must seem to an unlearned man, 
and particularly to our Eussian folk, very surpris- 
ing. In the first place, neither in relation to the 
goods-porters nor the factory women, nor all 
the millions of other labourers suffering from 
heavy, unhealthy, stupefying labour, does the 
possession of the means of production by capi- 
talists explain anything. The agricultural means 
of production of those men who are now working 
at the railway have not been seized by capitalists : 


they have land, and horses, and ploughs, and 
harrows, and all that is necessary to till the 
ground ; also these women working at the factory 
are not only not forced to it by being deprived 
of their implements of production, but, on the 
contrary, they have (for the most part against 
the wish of the elder members of their families) 
left the homes where their work was much 
wanted, and where they had implements of pro- 

Millions of workpeople in Eussia, and in other 
countries, are in like case. So that the cause of 
the miserable position of the workers cannot be 
found in the seizure of the means of production 
by capitalists. The cause must lie in that which 
drives them from the villages. That in the first 
place. Secondly, the emancipation of the workers 
from this state of things (even in that distant 
future in which science promises them liberty) 
can be accomplished neither by shortening the 
hours of labour, nor by increasing wages, nor by 
the promised communalisation of the means of 

All that, cannot improve their position. For 
the labourers' misery alike on the railway, in 
the silk-factory, and in every other factory or 
workshop consists not in the longer or shorter 
hours of work (agriculturists sometimes work 
eighteen hours a day, and as much as thirty-six 
hours on end, and consider their lives happy 


ones) ; nor does it consist in the low rate of wages, 
nor in the fact that the railway or the factory is 
not theirs ; but it consists in the fact that they 
are obliged to work in harmful, unnatural con- 
ditions, often dangerous and destructive to life, 
and to live a barrack life in towns a life full 
of temptations and immorality and to do com- 
pulsory labour at another's bidding. 

Latterly the hours of labour have diminished, 
and the rate of wages has increased ; but this 
diminution of the hours of labour and this in- 
crease in wages has not improved the position 
of the worker, if one takes into account not their 
more luxurious habits watches with chains, silk 
kerchiefs, tobacco, vddka, beef, beer, etc. but 
their true welfare, i.e. their health and morality, 
and chiefly their freedom. 

At the silk-factory with which I am acquainted, 
twenty years ago the work was chiefly done by 
men, who worked fourteen hours a day, earned on 
an average fifteen roubles a month, and sent the 
money, for the most part, to their families in the 
villages. Now, nearly all the work is done by 
women, working eleven hours, some of whom earn 
as much as twenty-five roubles a month (over 
fifteen roubles on the average), and, for the most 
part, do not send it home, but spend all they 
earn here, chiefly on dress, drunkenness, and vice. 
The diminution of the hours of work merely 
increases the time they spend in the taverns. 


The same thing is happening, to a greater or 
lesser extent, at all the factories and works. 
Everywhere, notwithstanding the diminution of 
the hours of labour and the increase of wages, 
the health of the operatives is worse than that of 
country workers, the average duration of life is 
shorter, and morality is sacrificed, as cannot but 
occur when people are torn from those conditions 
which most conduce to morality : family life, 
and free, healthy, varied, and intelligible agricul- 
tural work 

It is very possibly true, as some economists 
assert, that with shorter hours of labour, more 
pay, and improved sanitary conditions in mills 
and factories, the health and morality of the 
workers improve, in comparison with the former 
condition of factory workers. It is possible also 
that latterly, and in some places, the position of 
the factory hands is better in external conditions 
than the position of the country population. 
But this is so (and only in some places) because 
the Government and society, influenced by the 
affirmations of science, do all that is possible 
to improve the position of the factory popu- 
lation at the expense of the country popula- 

If the condition of the factory workers, in 
some places, is (though only in externals) better 
than that of country people, it only shows that 
one can, by all kinds of restrictions, render life 


miserable, in what should be the best external 
conditions ; and that there is no position so 
unnatural and bad that men may not adapt 
themselves to it, if they remain in it for some 

The misery of the position of a factory hand, 
and in general of a town worker, does not consist 
in his long hours and small pay, but in the fact 
that he is deprived of the natural conditions of 
life in touch with nature, is deprived of freedom, 
and is compelled to compulsory and monotonous 
toil at another man's will. 

And therefore the reply to the questions, why 
factory and town workers are in miserable con- 
ditions, and how those may be improved, cannot 
be, that this arises because capitalists have pos- 
sessed themselves of the means of production, and 
that the workers' condition will be improved : by 
diminishing their hours of work, increasing their 
wages, and communalising the means of produc- 

The reply to these questions must consist in 
indicating the causes which have deprived the 
workers of natural conditions of life in touch 
with nature, and have driven them into factory 
bondage ; and in indicating means to free the 
workers from the necessity of foregoing a free 
country life, and from going into slavery at the 

And therefore the question why town workers 


are in a miserable condition, includes, first of all, 
the question : what reasons have driven them 
from the villages, where they and their ancestors 
have lived and might live; where, in Eussia, 
people such as they do still live ? and what it 
is that drove, and continues to drive them, against 
their will, to the factories and works ? 

If there are workmen, as in England, Belgium, 
or Germany, who for some generations have 
lived by factory work, even they live so, not 
at their own free will but because their fathers, 
grandfathers, and great-grandfathers were, in some 
way, compelled to exchange the agricultural 
life which they loved, for life which seemed to 
them hard in towns and at factories. First the 
country people were deprived of land by violence, 
says Karl Marx, were evicted and brought to 
vagabondage ; and then, by cruel laws, they were 
tortured with pincers, with red-hot irons, and 
were whipped, to make them submit to the 
condition of being hired labourers. Therefore 
the question, how to free the workers from their 
miserable position, should, one would think, 
naturally lead to the question, how to remove 
those causes which have already driven some, 
and are now driving, and threatening to drive, 
the rest of the peasants from the position which 
they considered and consider good, and have 
driven and are driving them to a position which 
they consider bad. 


Economic science, although it indicates in 
passing the causes that drove the peasants from 
the villages, does not concern itself with the 
question how to remove these causes, but directs 
all its attention to the improvement of the 
worker's position in the existing factories and 
works, assuming as it were that the workers' 
position in these factories and workshops is 
something unalterable, something which must 
at all costs be maintained for those who are 
already in the factories, and must be reached 
by those who have not yet left the villages or 
abandoned agricultural work. 

Moreover, economic science is so sure that all 
the peasants have inevitably to become factory 
operatives in towns, that though all the sages 
and the poets of the world have always placed 
the ideal of human happiness amid conditions 
of agricultural work, though all the workers 
whose habits are unperverted have always pre- 
ferred, and still prefer, agricultural labour to 
any other, though factory work is always un- 
healthy and monotonous, while agriculture is 
most healthy and varied, though agricultural 
work is free, 1 i.e. the peasant alternates toil and 
rest at his own will, while factory work, even if 
the factory belongs to the workmen, is always 

1 In Eussia, as in many other countries, the greater part of 
the agricultural work still is done by peasants working their 
own land on their own account. (Trans.). 


enforced, in dependence on the machines, though 
factory work is derivative, while agricultural work 
is fundamental, and without it no factory could 
exist, yet economic science affirms that all the 
country people, not only are not injured by the 
transition from the country to the town, but 
themselves desire it, and strive towards it. 



HOWEVER obviously unjust may be the assertion 
of the men of science that the welfare of 
humanity must consist in the very thing that 
is profoundly repulsive to human feelings in 
monotonous, enforced factory labour the men 
of science were inevitably led to make this ob- 
viously unjust assertion, just as the theologians 
of old were inevitably led to make the equally 
evidently unjust assertion that slaves and their 
masters were creatures differing in kind, and that 
the inequality of their position in this world 
would be compensated in the next. 

The cause of this evidently unjust assertion 
is that those who have formulated, and who are 
formulating, the laws of science, belong to the 
well-to-do classes, and are so accustomed to the 
conditions, advantageous for themselves, in which 
they live, that they do not admit the thought that 
society could exist under other conditions. 

The condition of life to which people of the 



well-to-do classes are accustomed, is that of an 
abundant production of various articles, necessary 
for their comfort and pleasure ; and these things 
are only obtained thanks to the existence of 
factories and works organised as at present. 
And therefore, when discussing the improvement 
of the workers' position, men of science, belong- 
ing to the well-to-do classes, always have in 
view only such improvements as will not do 
away with this system of factory production, 
and those conveniences of which they avail 

Even the most advanced economists the 
socialists, who demand the complete control of 
the means of production, for the workers 
expect production of the same, or almost of the 
same, articles, as are produced now, to continue in 
the present^ or similar, factories, with the present 
division of labour. 

The difference, as they imagine it, will only 
be that, in the future, not they alone, but all 
men, will make use of such conveniences as only 
they now enjoy. They dimly picture to them- 
selves that, with the communalisation of the 
means of production, they too men of science, 
and the ruling classes in general will do some 
work, but chiefly as managers, designers, scientists, 
or artiats. To the questions, who will have to 
wear a muzzle and make white-lead ? who will 
be stokers ? miners ? and cesspool cleaners ? they 


are either silent, or foretell that all these things 
will be so improved that even work at cess- 
pools, and underground, will afford pleasant 
occupation. That is how they represent to 
themselves future economic conditions, both in 
Utopias such as that of Bellamy and in 
scientific works. 

According to their theories, the workers will 
all join unions and associations, and cultivate 
solidarity among themselves by unions, strikes, 
and participation in Parliament, till they obtain 
possession of all the means of production, as well 
as the land ; and then they will be so well fed, 
so well dressed, and enjoy such amusements on 
holidays, that they will prefer life in town, amid 
brick buildings and smoking chimneys, to free 
village life amid plants and domestic animals ; 
and monotonous, bell -regulated machine work 
to varied, healthy, and free agricultural labour. 

Though this anticipation is as improbable as 
the anticipation of the theologians about a 
heaven to be enjoyed hereafter by workmen in 
compensation for their hard labour here, yet 
learned and educated people of our society 
believe this strange teaching, just as formerly 
wise and learned people believed in a heaven for 
workmen in the next world. 

And learned men and their disciples people 
of the well-to-do classes believe this because 
they must believe it. This dilemma stands 


before them : either they must see that all that 
they make use of in their lives, from railways to 
lucifer matches and cigarettes, represents labour 
which costs the lives of many of their brother - 
men, and that they, not sharing in that toil but 
making use of it, are very dishonourable men ; 
or they must believe that all that takes place, 
takes place for the general advantage, in accord 
with unalterable laws of economic science. 
Therein lies the inner psychological cause com- 
pelling men of science men wise and educated, 
but not enlightened to affirm positively and 
tenaciously such an obvious untruth, as that the 
labourers, for their own well-being, should leave 
a happy and healthy life in touch with nature, 
and go to ruin their bodies and souls in factories 
and workshops. 



BUT even allowing the assertion (evidently 
unfounded as it is, and contrary to the facts of 
human nature), that it is better for people to live 
in towns and to do compulsory machine work in 
factories, rather than to live in villages and work 
freely at handicrafts there remains in the very 
ideal itself, to which the men of science tell us 
the economic evolution is leading, an insoluble 
contradiction. The ideal is that the workers, 
having become masters of all the means of 
production, are to obtain all the comforts and 
pleasures now possessed by well-to-do people. 
They will all be well clothed and housed, and 
well nourished, and will all walk on electrically- 
lighted asphalt streets, and frequent concerts and 
theatres, and read papers and books, and ride on 
auto-cars, etc. But that everybody may have 
certain things, the production of those things 
must be apportioned, and consequently it must 
be decided how long each workman is to work. 
How is that to be decided ? 



Statistics may show (though very imperfectly) 
what people require in a society fettered by 
capital, by competition, and by want. But no 
statistics can show how much is wanted, and 
what articles are needed to satisfy the demand 
in a society where the means of production will 
belong to the society itself, i.e. where the people 
will be free. 

The demands in such a society cannot be 
defined, and they will always infinitely exceed 
the possibility of satisfying them. Everybody 
will wish to have all that the richest now 
possesses, and therefore it is quite impossible to 
define the quantity of goods that such a society 
will require. 

Furthermore, how are people to be induced to 
work at articles which some consider necessary 
and others consider unnecessary or even harmful ? 

If it be found necessary for everybody to 
work, say, six hours a day, in order to satisfy 
the requirements of the society, who, in a free 
society, can compel a man to work those six 
hours, if he knows that part of the time is spent 
on producing things he considers unnecessary or 
even harmful ? 

It is undeniable that under the present state 
of things most varied articles are produced with 
great economy of exertion, thanks to machinery, 
and thanks especially to the division of labour 
which has been brought to an extreme nicety 


and carried to the highest perfection ; and that 
these articles are profitable to the manufacturers, 
and that we find them convenient and pleasant 
to use. But the fact that these articles are well 
made, and are produced with little expenditure 
of strength, that they are profitable to the 
capitalists and convenient for us, does not prove 
that free men would, without compulsion, 
continue to produce them. There is no doubt 
that Krupp, with the present division of labour, 
makes admirable cannons very quickly and art- 
fully ; N. M. very quickly and artfully produces 
silk materials ; X. Y. and Z. produce toilet scents, 
powder to preserve the complexion, or glazed 
packs of cards; and K. produces whisky of 
choice flavour, etc. ; and, no doubt, both for 
those who want these articles and for the owners 
of the factories in which they are made, all this 
is very advantageous. But cannons, and scents, 
and whisky, are wanted by those who wish to 
obtain control of the Chinese market, or who 
like to get drunk, or are concerned about their 
complexions ; but there will be some who con- 
sider the production of these articles harmful. 
And there will always be people who consider 
that, besides these articles exhibitions, academies, 
beer and beef are unnecessary and even harmful. 
How are these people to be made to participate 
in the production of such articles ? 

But even if a means could be found to get 


all to agree to produce certain articles (though 
there is no such means, and can be none, except 
coercion), who, in a free society, without 
capitalistic production, competition and its law 
of supply and demand, will decide which articles 
are to have the preference ? Which are to be 
made first, and which after ? Are we first to 
build the Siberian railway and fortify Port- 
Arthur, and then macadamise the roads in our 
country districts, or vice versd ? Which is to 
come first : electric lighting or irrigation of the 
fields ? And then comes another question, in- 
soluble with free workmen : which men are to 
do which work ? Evidently all will prefer hay- 
making or drawing to stoking or cesspool 
cleaning. How, in apportioning the work, are 
people to be induced to agree ? 

No statistics can answer these questions. 
The solution can only be theoretical : it may 
be said that there will be people to whom 
power will be given to regulate all these matters. 
Some people will decide these questions, and 
others will obey them. 

But besides the questions of apportioning and 
directing production and of selecting work, when 
the means of production are communalised there 
will be another and most important question 
as to the degree of division of labour that can 
be established in a socialistically organised 
society. The now existing division of labour 


is conditioned by the necessities of the workers. 
A worker only agrees to live all his life under- 
ground, or to make the one-hundredth part of 
one article all his life, or move his hands up 
and down amid the roar of machinery all his 
life, because he will otherwise not have means 
to live. But it will only be by compulsion that 
a workman, owning the means of production and 
not suffering want, can be induced to accept 
such stupefying and soul-destroying conditions 
of labour as those in which people now work. 
Division of labour is undoubtedly very profitable 
and natural to people ; but, if people are free, 
division of labour is only possible up to a 
certain, very limited, extent, which has been 
far overstepped in our society. 

If one peasant occupies himself chiefly with 
boot-making, and his wife weaves, and another 
peasant ploughs, and a third is a blacksmith, 
and they all, having acquired special dexterity 
in their own work, afterwards exchange what 
they have produced such division of labour is 
advantageous to all, and free people will naturally 
divide their work in this way. But a division 
of labour by which a man makes one one- 
hundredth of an article, or a stoker works in 
140 degrees (Fahrenheit) of heat, or is choked 
with harmful gases such division of labour is 
disadvantageous, because though it furthers the 
production of insignificant articles, it destroys 


that which is most precious the life of man. 
And therefore such division of labour as now 
exists, can only exist where there is compulsion. 
Eodbertus l says that communal division of labour 
unites mankind. That is true ; but it is only 
free division such as people voluntarily adopt 
that unites. 

If people decide to make a road, and one 
digs, another brings stones, a third breaks 
them, etc. that sort of division of work unites 

But if, independently of the wishes, and some- 
times against the wishes, of the workers, a 
strategical railway is built, or an Eiffel tower, 
or stupidities such as fill the Paris exhibition ; 
and one workman is compelled to obtain iron, 
another to dig coal, a third to make castings, a 
fourth to cut down trees, and a fifth to saw 
them up, without even having the least idea 
what the things they are making are wanted 
for, then such division of labour not only does 
not unite men, but, on the contrary, it divides 

And, therefore, with communalised implements 
of production, if people are free, they will only 
adopt division of labour in as far as the good re- 
sulting will outweigh the evil it occasions to the 
workers. And as each man naturally sees good 
in extending and diversifying his activities, such 

1 A leader of German scientific Socialism (1805-75). (Trans.). 


division of labour as now exists will, evidently, be 
impossible in a free society. 

To suppose that with communalised means of 
production there will be such an abundance of 
things as is now produced by compulsory division 
of labour, is like supposing that after the eman- 
cipation of the serfs the domestic orchestras 1 and 
theatres, the home-made carpets and laces, and 
the elaborate gardens which depended on serf- 
labour would continue to exist as before. So 
that the supposition that when the Socialist 
ideal is realised, everyone will be free, and will 
at the same time have at his disposal every- 
thing, or almost everything, that is now made 
use of by the well-to-do classes, involves an 
obvious self-contradiction. 

1 Before the emancipation of the serfs in Russia some pro- 
prietors had private theatres of their own and troupes of 
musicians and actors composed of their own serfs. On many 
estates the serfs produced a variety of hand-made luxuries, as 
well as necessaries, for the proprietors. (Trans.). 



JUST what happened when serfdom existed is 
now being repeated. Then, the majority of the 
serf-owners and of people of the well-to-do 
classes, if they acknowledged the serfs' position 
to be not quite satisfactory, yet recommended 
only such alterations as would not deprive the 
owners of what was essential to their profit. 
Now, people of the well-to-do classes, admitting 
that the position of the workers is not altogether 
satisfactory, propose for its amendment only such 
measures as will not deprive the well-to-do 
classes of their advantages. As well - disposed 
owners then spoke of " paternal authority," 
and, like Gogol, 1 advised owners to be kind 
to their serfs and to take care of them, but 
would not tolerate the idea of emancipation, 2 
considering it harmful and dangerous, just so, 

1 N. V. Gdgol (1809-52), an admirable writer and a most 
worthy man. (Trans.). 

2 Tolstoy himself set an example by voluntarily emancipat- 
ing all his serfs. (Trans.). 



the majority of well-to-do people to-day advise 
employers to look after the well - being of 
their workpeople, but do not admit the thought 
of any such alteration of the economic struc- 
ture of life as would set the labourers quite 

And just as advanced Liberals then, while 
considering serfdom to be an immutable arrange- 
ment, demanded that the Government should 
limit the power of the owners, and sympathised 
with the serfs' agitation, so the Liberals of to- 
day, while considering the existing order im- 
mutable, demand that Government should limit 
the powers of capitalists and manufacturers, and 
they sympathise with unions, and strikes, and, 
in general, with the workers' agitation. And 
just as the most advanced men then demanded 
the emancipation of the serfs, but drew up a 
Project which left the serfs dependent on private 
landowners, or fettered them with tributes and 
land-taxes so now the most advanced people 
demand the emancipation of the workmen from 
the power of the capitalists, the communalisation 
of the means of production, but yet would leave 
the workers dependent on the present apportion- 
ment and division of labour, which, in their 
opinion, must remain unaltered. The teachings 
of economic science, which are adopted (though 
without close examination of their details) by 
all those of the well-to-do classes who consider 


themselves enlightened and advanced, 1 seem on 
a superficial examination to be liberal and even 
radical, containing as they do attacks on the 
wealthy classes of society ; but, essentially, that 
teaching is in the highest degree conservative, 
gross, and cruel. One way or another the men 
of science, and in their train all the well-to-do 
classes, wish at all cost to maintain the present 
system of distribution and division of labour, 
which makes possible the production of that 
great quantity of goods which they make use of. 
The existing economic order is by the men of 
science, and following them by all the well-to-do 
classes called culture ; and in this culture : 
railways, telegraphs, telephones, photographs, 
Eontgen rays, clinical hospitals, exhibitions, and, 
chiefly, all the appliances of comfort they see 
something so sacrosanct that they will not allow 
even a thought of alterations which might 
destroy it all, or but endanger a small part of 
these acquisitions. Everything may, according 
to the teachings of that science, be changed, 

1 It should be borne in mind that educated Russians, though 
politically much less free, are intellectually far more free than 
the corresponding section of the English population. Views 
on economics, and on religion, which are here held only by 
very "advanced" people, have been popular among Russian 
university students for a generation past. In particular, the 
doctrines of Karl Marx, and of German scientific socialism in 
general, have had a much wider acceptance there than here. 


except what it calls culture. But it becomes 
more and more evident that this culture can 
only exist while the workers are compelled to 
work. Yet men of science are so sure that this 
culture is the greatest of blessings, that they 
boldly proclaim the contrary of what the jurists 
once said : fiat justitia, pereat mundus. 1 They 
now say : fiat cultura, pereat justitia? And they 
not only say it, but act accordingly. Everything 
may be changed, in practice and in theory, except 
culture, except all that is going on in workshops 
and factories, and especially what is being sold 
in the shops. 

But I think that enlightened people, pro- 
fessing the Christian law of brotherhood and 
love to one's neighbour, should say just the con- 

Electric lights and telephones and exhibitions 
are excellent, and so are all the pleasure-gardens 
with concerts and performances, and all the 
cigars, and match-boxes, and braces, and motor- 
cars but may they all go to perdition, and not 
they alone but the railways, and all the factory- 
made chintz-stuffs and cloths in the world, if to 
produce them it is necessary that 99 per cent, 
of the people should remain in slavery, and 
perish by thousands in factories needed for the 
production of these articles. If in order that 

1 Let justice be done, though the world perish. 

2 Let culture be preserved, though justice perishes. 


London or Petersburg may be lighted by elec- 
tricity, or in order to construct exhibition build- 
ings, or in order that there may be beautiful 
paints, or in order to weave beautiful stuffs 
quickly and abundantly, it is necessary that even 
a very few lives should be destroyed, or ruined, or 
shortened and statistics show us how many are 
destroyed let London and Petersburg rather 
be lit by gas, or oil ; let there rather be no 

i/ O * J 

exhibition, no paints, or materials only let 
there be no slavery, and no destruction of human 
lives resulting from it. Truly enlightened people 
will always agree to go back to riding on horses 
and using pack-horses, or even to tilling the 
earth with sticks and with their own hands, 
rather than to travel on railways which regularly 
every year crush a number of people, as is done 
in Chicago, 1 merely because the proprietors of 
the railway find it more profitable to compensate 
the families of those killed, than to build the line 
so that it should not kill people. The motto 
for truly enlightened people is not fiat cultura, 
pereat justitia, but fiat justitia, pereat cultura. 

But culture, useful culture, will not be de- 
stroyed. It will certainly not be necessary for 

1 We have a somewhat similar case nearer home. In 1899 
the number of railway servants killed in the United Kingdom 
was 1085, besides nearly 5000 injured, yet Companies wish to 
defer the introduction of such a precaution as automatic coup- 
lings till yet more have been killed. (Trans.). 


people to revert to tillage of the land with sticks, 
or to lighting-up with torches. It is not for 
nothing that mankind, in their slavery, have 
achieved such great progress in technical matters. 
If only it is understood that we must not sacri- 
fice the lives of our brother-men for our own 
pleasure, it will be possible to apply technical 
improvements without destroying men's lives ; 
and to arrange life so as to profit by all those 
methods giving us control of nature, that have 
been devised, and that can be applied without 
keeping our brother-men in slavery. 



IMAGINE a man from a country quite different to 
our own, with no idea of our history or of our 
laws, and suppose that, after showing him the 
various aspects of our life, we were to ask him 
what was the chief difference he noticed in the 
lives of people of our world ? The chief difference 
which such a man would notice in the way people 
live is that some people a small number who 
have clean white hands, and are well nourished 
and clothed and lodged, do very little and very 
light work, or even do not work at all but only 
amuse themselves, spending on these amusements 
the results of millions of days devoted by other 
people to severe labour ; but other people, always 
dirty, poorly clothed and lodged and fed with 
dirty, horny hands toil unceasingly from morn- 
ing to night, and sometimes all night long, 
working for those who do not work, but who 
continually amuse themselves. 

If between the slaves and slave-owners of 
to-day it is difficult to draw as sharp a dividing 


line as that which separated the former slaves 
from their masters, and if among the slaves of 
to-day there are some who are only temporarily 
slaves and then become slave-owners, or some 
who, at one and the same time, are slaves and 
slave-owners, this blending of the two classes at 
their points of contact does not upset the fact 
that the people of our time are divided into 
slaves and slave-owners as definitely as, in spite 
of the twilight, each twenty-four hours is divided 
into day and night. 

If the slave-owner of our times has no slave 
John, whom he can send to the cesspool to clear 
out his excrements, he has five shillings of which 
hundreds of Johns are in such need that the 
slave-owner of our times may choose anyone out 
of hundreds of Johns and be a benefactor to him 
by giving him the preference, and allowing him, 
rather than another, to climb down into the cess- 
pool. 1 

The slaves of our times are not only all 
those factory and workshop hands, who must sell 
themselves completely into the power of the 
factory and foundry owners in order to exist ; 
but nearly all the agricultural labourers are 
slaves, working as they do unceasingly to grow 

1 Moscow has a very defective system of drainage, and a 
large number of people are engaged, every night, pumping and 
baling the contents of the cesspools into huge barrels, and 
carting it away from the city. (Trans.). 


another's corn on another's field, and gathering it 
into another's barn ; or tilling their own fields 
only in order to pay to bankers the interest on 
debts they cannot get rid of. And slaves also 
are all the innumerable footmen, cooks, house- 
maids, porters, coachmen, bath-men, waiters, etc., 
who all their life long perform duties most 
unnatural to a human being, and which they 
themselves dislike. 

Slavery exists in full vigour, but we do not 
perceive it ; just as in Europe, at the end of the 
eighteenth century, the slavery of serfdom was 
not perceived. 

People of that day thought that the position 
of men obliged to till the land for their lords, 
and to obey them, was a natural, inevitable 
economic condition of life, and they did not call 
it slavery. 

It is the same among us people of our day 
consider the position of the labourers to be a 
natural, inevitable economic condition, and they 
do not call it slavery. 

And as, at the end of the eighteenth century, 
the people of Europe began little by little to 
understand that what had seemed a natural 
and inevitable form of economic life, namely, the 
position of peasants who were completely in the 
power of their lords, was wrong, unjust, and 
immoral, and demanded alteration ; so now 
people to-day are beginning to understand that 


the position of hired workmen, and of the work- 
ing classes in general, which formerly seemed 
quite right and quite normal, is not what it 
should be, and demands alteration. 

The question of the slavery of our times is just 
in the same phase now in which the question of 
serfdom stood in Europe l towards the end of the 
eighteenth century, and in which the questions 
of serfdom among us, and of slavery in America, 
stood in the second quarter of the nineteenth 

The slavery of the workers in our time is only 
beginning to be admitted by advanced people in 
our society ; the majority as yet are convinced 
that among us no slavery exists. 

A thing that helps people to-day to mis- 
understand their position in this matter, is the 
fact that we have, in Eussia and in America, only 
recently abolished slavery. But in reality the 
abolition of serfdom and of slavery was only the 
abolition of an obsolete form of slavery that had 
become unnecessary, and the substitution for it 
of a firmer form of slavery, and one that holds 
a greater number of people in bondage. The 
abolition of serfdom and of slavery was like 
what the Tartars of the Crimea did with their 
prisoners. They invented the plan of slitting 

1 I have left the distinction between Europe and Russia 
(quite natural and customary to a Russian writer) as it stands 
in the original. (Trans.). 


the soles of the prisoners' feet and sprinkling 
chopped-up bristles into the wounds. Having 
performed that operation, they released them 
from their weights and chains. The abolition 
of serfdom in Eussia and of slavery in America, 
though it abolished the former method of slavery, 
not only did not abolish what was essential in it, 
but was only accomplished when the bristles had 
formed sores on the soles, and one could be quite 
sure that without chains or weights the prisoners 
would not run away, but would have to work. 
(The Northerners in America boldly demanded 
the abolition of the former slavery because, 
among them, the new monetary slavery had 
already shown its power to shackle the people. 
The Southerners did not yet perceive the plain 
signs of the new slavery, and therefore did not 
consent to abolish the old form.) 

Among us in Kussia serfdom was only abolished 
when all the land had been appropriated. When 
land was granted to the peasants, it was burdened 
with payments which took the place of the land 
slavery. In Europe, taxes that kept the people 
in bondage began to be abolished only when the 
people had lost their land, were disaccustomed to 
agricultural work, and, having acquired town 
tastes, were quite dependent on the capitalists. 
Only then were the taxes on corn abolished in 
England. And they are now beginning, in 
Germany and in other countries, to abolish the 


taxes that fall on the workers, and to shift them 
on to the rich only because the majority of 
the people are already in the hands of the 
capitalists. One form of slavery is not abolished 
until another has already replaced it. There are 
several such forms. And if not one then another 
(and sometimes several of these means together) 
keeps a people in slavery, i.e. places it in such a 
position that one small part of the people has 
full power over the labour and the life of a larger 
number. In this enslavement of the larger part 
of the people by a smaller part lies the chief 
cause of the miserable condition of the people. 
And therefore the means of improving the position 
of the workers must consist in this : First, in 
admitting that among us slavery exists, not in 
some figurative, metaphorical sense, but in the 
simplest and plainest sense ; slavery which keeps 
some people the majority, in the power of others 
the minority ; secondly, having admitted this, 
in finding the causes of the enslavement of some 
people by others ; and thirdly, having found these 
causes, in destroying them. 



IN what does the slavery of our time consist ? 
What are the forces that make some people the 
slaves of others ? If we ask all the workers in 
Kussia and in Europe and in America alike 
in the factories and in various situations in 
which they work for hire, in towns and villages 
what has made them choose the position in 
which they are living, they will all reply that 
they have been brought to it ; either because 
they had no land on which they could and wished 
to live and work (that will be the reply of all 
the Eussian workmen and of very many of the 
Europeans), or that taxes, direct and indirect, 
were demanded of them, which they could only 
pay by selling their labour, or that they remain 
at factory work ensnared by the more luxurious 
habits they have adopted, and which they can 
gratify only by selling their labour and their 

The two first conditions the lack of land 
and the taxes drive man to compulsory labour, 


while the third his increased and unsatisfied 
needs decoy him to it and keep him at it. 

We can imagine that the land may be freed 
from the claims of private proprietors, by 
Henry George's plan, and that, therefore, the 
first cause driving people into slavery the 
lack of land may be done away with. We 
can also, besides the Single-Tax plan, imagine 
the direct abolition of taxes, or that they should 
be transferred from the poor to the rich, as is 
being done now in some countries ; but, under 
the present economic organisation, one cannot 
even imagine a position of things under which 
more and more luxurious, and often harmful, 
habits of life would not be adopted among the 
rich, and that these habits should not, little by 
little, pass to those of the lower classes who are 
in contact with the rich, as inevitably as water 
sinks into dry ground, and that these habits 
should not become so necessary to the workers 
that, in order to be able to satisfy them, they 
will be ready to sell their freedom. 

So that this third condition, though it is a 
voluntary one (i.e. it would seem that a man 
might resist the temptation), and though science 
does not acknowledge it to be a cause of the 
miserable condition of the workers, is the firmest 
and most irremovable cause of slavery. 

Workmen living near rich people always are 
infected with new requirements, and only obtain 


means to satisfy these requirements in so far 
as they devote their most intense labour to 
this satisfaction. So that workmen in England 
and America, receiving sometimes ten times as 
much as is necessary for subsistence, continue to 
be just such slaves as they were before. 

Three causes, as the workmen themselves ex- 
plain, produce the slavery in which they live ; 
and the history of their enslavement and the 
facts of their position confirm the correctness 
of this explanation. 

All the workers are brought to their present 
state, and are kept in it, by these three causes. 
These causes, acting on people from different 
sides, are such that none can escape from their 
enslavement. The agriculturist who has no 
land, or who has not enough, will always be 
obliged to go into perpetual or temporary slavery 
to the landowner, in order to have the possibility 
of feeding himself from the land. Should he, 
in one way or other, obtain land enough to be 
able to feed himself from it by his own labour, 
such taxes, direct or indirect, are demanded from 
him, that in order to pay them he has again to 
go into slavery. 

If to escape from slavery on the land, he 
ceases to cultivate land, and, living on someone 
else's land, begins to occupy himself with a handi- 
craft, and to exchange his produce for the things 
he needs, then, on the one hand, taxes, and, on 


the other hand, the competition of capitalists, 
producing similar articles to those he makes, 
but with better implements of production, compel 
him to go into temporary or perpetual slavery to 
a capitalist. If working for a capitalist, he might 
set up free relations with him, and not be obliged 
to sell his liberty, yet the new requirements 
which he assimilates deprive him of any such 
possibility. So that, one way or another, the 
labourer is always in slavery to those who control 
the taxes, the land, and the articles necessary to 
satisfy his requirements. 



THE German Socialists have termed the combina- 
tion of conditions which put the workers in 
subjection to the capitalists, the iron law of 
wages, implying by the word " iron " that this 
law is immutable. But in these conditions 
there is nothing immutable ; these conditions 
merely result from human laws concerning taxes, 
land, and, above all, concerning things which 
satisfy our requirements, i.e. concerning property. 
Laws are framed, and repealed, by human beings. 
So that it is not some sociological "iron" law, 
but ordinary man-made law, that produces slavery. 
In the case in hand, the slavery of our times is 
very clearly and definitely produced, not by some 
" iron " elemental law, but by human enactments : 
about land, about taxes, and about property. 
There is one set of laws by which any quantity 
of land may belong to private people, and may 
pass from one to another by inheritance, or by 
will, or may be sold ; there is another set of laws 
by which everyone must pay the taxes demanded 


of him unquestioningly ; and there is a third set 
of laws to the effect that any quantity of articles, 
by whatever means acquired, may become the 
absolute property of the people who hold them. 
And in consequence of these laws slavery exists. 

We are so accustomed to all these laws, that 
they seem to us just as necessary and natural to 
human life, as the laws maintaining serfdom and 
slavery seemed in former times ; no doubt about 
their necessity and justice seems possible, and 
we notice nothing wrong in them. But just 
as a time came when people, having seen the 
ruinous consequences of serfdom, questioned the 
justice and necessity of the laws which main- 
tained it, so now, when the pernicious conse- 
quences of the present economic order have 
become evident, one involuntarily questions the 
justice and inevitability of the legislation about 
land, taxes, and property, which produces these 

As people formerly asked, Is it right that 
some people should belong to others, and that 
the former should have nothing of their own, but 
should give all the produce of their labour to their 
owners ? so now we must ask ourselves, Is it 
right that people must not use land accounted 
the property of other people ? is it right that 
people should hand over to others, in the form 
of taxes, whatever part of their labour is de- 
manded of them ? Is it right that people may 


not make use of articles considered to be the 
property of other people ? 

Is it right that people should not have the use 
of land when it is considered to belong to others 
who are not cultivating it ? 

It is said that this legislation is instituted 
because landed property is an essential condition 
if agriculture is to flourish, and if there were no 
private property passing by inheritance, people 
would drive one another from the land they 
occupy, and no one would work or improve the 
land on which he is settled. Is this true ? The 
answer is to be found in history, and in the facts 
of to-day. History shows that property in land 
did not arise from any wish to make the culti- 
vator's tenure more secure, but resulted from the 
seizure of communal lands by conquerors, and its 
distribution to those who served the conquerors. 
So that property in land was not established 
with the object of stimulating the agriculturists. 
Present-day facts show the fallacy of the asser- 
tion that landed property enables those who 
work the land to be sure that they will not be 
deprived of the land they cultivate. In reality 
just the contrary has everywhere happened, and 
is happening. The right of landed property, by 
which the great proprietors have profited most, 
and are profiting, has produced the result that 
all, or most, i.e. the immense majority of the 


agriculturists, are now in the position of people 
who cultivate other people's land, from which 
they may be driven at the whim of men who do 
not cultivate it. So that the existing right of 
landed property certainly does not defend the 
rights of the agriculturist to enjoy the fruits of 
the labour he puts into the land, but, on the con- 
trary, it is a way of depriving the agriculturists 
of the land on which they work, and handing it 
over to those who have not worked it ; and there- 
fore it is certainly not a means for the improve- 
ment of agriculture, but, on the contrary, a means 
of deteriorating it. 

About taxes it is said that people ought to 
pay them because they are instituted with the 
general, even though silent, consent of all ; and are 
used for public needs, to the advantage of all. Is 
this true ? 

The answer to this question is given in history 
and in present-day facts. History shows that 
taxes never were instituted by common consent, 
but, on the contrary, always only in consequence 
of the fact that some people having obtained 
power (by conquest or by other means) over 
other people, imposed tribute, not for public 
needs, but for themselves. And the same thing 
is still going on. Taxes are taken by those who 
have the power to take them. If nowadays 
some portion of these tributes, called taxes and 
duties, are used for public purposes, it is, for the 


most part, for public purposes that are harmful 
rather than useful to most people. 

For instance, in Eussia one -third of the 
peasants' whole income is taken in taxes, but only 
one-fiftieth of the State revenue is spent on their 
greatest need, the education of the people ; and 
even that amount is spent on a kind of educa- 
tion which, by stupefying the people, harms them 
more than it benefits them. The other forty- 
nine-fiftieths are spent on unnecessary things, 
harmful for the people, such as equipping the 
army, building strategical railways, forts, and 
prisons, or supporting the priesthood and the 
court, and on salaries for military and civil 
officials, i.e. on salaries for those people who 
make it possible to take this money from the 

The same thing goes on not only in Persia, 
Turkey, and India, but also in all the Christian 
and constitutional States and democratic Republics: 
money is taken from the majority of the people, 
quite independently of the consent or non- 
consent of the payers, and the amount collected 
is not what is really needful, but as much as 
can be got (we know how Parliaments are made 
up, and how little they represent the will of 
the people), and it is used not for the common 
advantage, but for things the. governing classes 
consider necessary for themselves : on wars in 
Cuba or the Philippines, on taking and keeping 


the riches of the Transvaal, and so forth. So 
that the explanation that people must pay taxes 
because they are instituted with general consent 
and are used for the common good, is as unjust 
as the other explanation, that private property 
in land is established to encourage agriculture. 

Is it true that people should not use articles 
needful to satisfy their requirements, if those 
articles are the property of other people ? 

It is asserted that the right of property in 
acquired articles is established in order to make 
the worker sure that no one will take from him 
the produce of his labour. 

Is this true ? 

It is only necessary to glance at what is done 
in our world, where property rights are defended 
with especial strictness, in order to be convinced 
how completely the facts of life run counter to 
this explanation. 

In our society, in consequence of the right 
of property in acquired articles, the very thing 
happens which that right is intended to pre- 
vent : namely, all articles which have been, and 
continually are being, produced by working 
people, are possessed by (and as they are pro- 
duced are continually taken by) those who have 
not produced them. 

So that the assertion that the right of 
property secures to the workers the possibility 
of enjoying the products of their labour is 


evidently yet more unjust than the assertion 
concerning property in land, and it is based on 
the same sophistry : first, the fruit of their toil 
is unjustly and violently taken from the workers, 
and then the law steps in, and these very articles 
which have been taken from the workmen, un- 
justly and by violence, are declared to be the 
absolute property of those who have stolen 

Property : for instance a factory, acquired by a 
series of frauds and by taking advantage of the 
workmen, is considered a result of labour, and is 
held sacred; but the lives of those workmen 
who perish at work in that factory, and their 
labour, are not considered their property, but 
are rather considered to be the property of the 
factory owner, if he taking advantage of the 
necessities of the workers has bound them 
down in a manner considered legal. Hundreds 
of thousands of bushels of corn, collected from 
the peasants by usury and by a series of 
extortions, are considered to be the property of 
the merchant, while the growing corn raised by 
the peasants is considered to be the property of 
someone else, if he has inherited the land from 
a grandfather or great-grandfather who took it 
from the people. It is said that the law defends 
equally the property of the millowner, of the 
capitalist, of the landowner, and of the factory 
or country labourer. The equality of the 


capitalist and of the worker is like the equality 
of two fighters, of whom one has his arms tied 
and the other has weapons, but to both of whom 
certain rules are applied with strict impartiality 
while they fight. So that all the explanations 
of the justice and necessity of the three sets of 
laws which produce slavery are as untrue as 
were the explanations formerly given of the 
justice and necessity of serfdom. All those 
three sets of laws are nothing but the establish- 
ment of that new form of slavery which has 
replaced the old form. As people formerly 
established laws enabling some people to buy and 
sell other people, and to own them, and to make 
them work and slavery existed ; so now people 
have established laws that men may not use 
land that is considered to belong to someone 
else, must pay the taxes demanded of them, 
and must not use articles considered to be the 
property of others and we have the slavery of 
our tunes. 



THE slavery of our times results from three ssts 
of laws : those about land, taxes, and property. 
And therefore all the attempts of those who 
wish to improve the position of the workers are 
inevitably, though unconsciously, directed against 
those three legislations. 

One set of people repeal taxes weighing on the 
working classes, and transfer them on to the rich ; 
others propose to abolish the right of private 
property in land, and attempts are being made 
to put this in practice both in New Zealand and 
in one of the American States (the limitation of 
landlords' rights in Ireland is a move in the same 
direction) ; a third set the Socialists propose 
to communalise the means of production, to tax 
incomes and inheritances, and to limit the rights 
of capitalist employers. It would therefore seem 
as though the legislative enactments which cause 
slavery were being repealed, and that we may 
therefore expect slavery to be abolished in this 
way. But we need only look more closely at 



the conditions under which the abolition of 
these legislative enactments is accomplished or 
proposed, to be convinced that not only the 
practical but even the theoretical projects for 
the improvement of the workers' position, are 
merely replacing one legislation producing slavery 
by another establishing a newer form of slavery. 
Thus, for instance, those who abolish taxes and 
duties on the poor, first abolishing direct dues, 
and then transferring the burden of taxation 
from the poor to the rich, necessarily have to 
retain, and do retain, the laws making private 
property of land, of the means of production, and 
of other articles on to which the whole burden 
of the taxes is shifted. The retention of the 
laws concerning land and property keeps the 
workers in slavery to the landowners and the 
capitalists, even though the workers are freed 
from taxes. Those who, like Henry George and 
his partisans, would abolish the laws making 
private property of land, propose new laws im- 
posing an obligatory rent on the land. And this 
obligatory land rent will necessarily create a new 
form of slavery ; because a man compelled to 
pay rent or single-tax may, at any failure of 
the crops or other misfortune, have to borrow 
money from a man who has some to lend, and 
he will again lapse into slavery. Those who 
like the Socialists in theory, wish to abolish the 
legalisation of property in land and in means of 


production, not only retain the legalisation of taxes, 
but must, moreover, inevitably introduce laws of 
compulsory labour i.e. they must re-establish 
slavery in its primitive form. 

So that, this way or that way, all the practical 
and theoretical repeals of certain laws maintain- 
ing slavery in one form, have always, and do 
always, replace it by new legislation creating 
slavery in another and a fresh form. 

What happens is something like what a jailer 
might do who shifted a prisoner's chains from 
the neck to the arms, and from the arms to the 
legs, or took them off and substituted bolts and 
bars. All the improvements that have hitherto 
taken place in the position of the workers have 
been of this kind. 

The laws giving a master the right to com- 
pel his slaves to do compulsory work, were re- 
placed by laws allowing the masters to own all 
the land. The laws allowing all the land to 
become the private property of the masters may 
be replaced by taxation laws, the control of the 
taxes being in the hands of the masters. The 
taxation laws may be replaced by others defending 
the right of private property in articles of use 
and in the means of production. The laws main- 
taining property in land and in articles of use 
and means of production, may, as is now pro- 
posed, be replaced by the enactment of com- 
pulsory labour. 


So it is evident that the abolition of one form 
of legalisation producing the slavery of our time 
whether taxes, or land-owning, or property in 
articles of use or in the means of production 
will not destroy slavery, but will only repeal 
one of its forms, which will immediately be re- 
placed by a new one, as was the case with the 
abolition of chattel slavery, and of serfdom, and 
with the repeals of taxes. Even the abolition of 
all three groups of laws together, will not abolish 
slavery, but evoke a new and previously, unknown 
form of it, which is now already beginning to 
show itself and to shackle the freedom of labour 
by legislation concerning the hours of work, the 
age and state of health of the workers, as well 
as by demanding obligatory attendance at schools, 
by deductions for old-age insurance or accidents, 
by all the measures of factory inspection, etc. 
All this is nothing but transitional legalisa- 
tion preparing a new and as yet untried form 
of slavery. 

So that it becomes evident that the essence of 
slavery lies not in those three roots of legisla- 
tion on which it now rests, and not even in such, 
or such other, legislative enactments, but in the 
fact that legislation exists that there are people 
who have power to decree laws profitable for 
themselves, and that as long as people have that 
power there will be slavery. 

Formerly it was profitable for people to have 


chattel slaves ; and they made laws about chattel 
slavery. Afterwards it became profitable to own 
land, to take taxes, and to keep things one had 
acquired, and they made laws correspondingly. 
Now it is profitable for people to maintain the 
existing direction and division of labour ; and 
they are devising such laws as will compel 
people to work under the present apportionment 
and division of labour. Thus the fundamental 
cause of slavery is legislation : the fact that 
there are people who have the power to make 

What is legislation ? and what gives people 
the power to make laws ? 



WHAT is legislation ? And what enables people 
to make laws ? 

There exists a whole science, even more 
ancient, mendacious, and confused, than political 
economy, the servants of which in the course of 
centuries have written millions of books (for the 
most part contradicting one another) to answer 
these questions. But as the aim of this science, 
as of political economy, is not to explain what 
now is and what ought to be, but rather to prove 
that what now is, is what ought to be, it happens 
that in this science (of jurisprudence) we find 
very many dissertations about rights, about ob- 
ject and subject, about the idea of a State, and 
other such matters, which are unintelligible 
both to the students and to the teachers of this 
science ; but we get no clear reply to the ques- 
tion what is legislation ? 

According to science, legislation is the expres- 
sion of the will of the whole people ; but as 


those who break the laws, or who wish to break 
them and only refrain from doing so through fear 
of being punished, are always more numerous than 
those who wish to carry out the code, it is evident 
that legislation can certainly not be considered as 
the expression of the will of the whole people. 

For instance, there are laws about not injuring 
telegraph posts ; about showing respect to certain 
people ; about each man performing military 
service, 1 or serving as a juryman ; about not 
taking certain goods beyond a certain frontier ; or 
about not using land considered to be the property 
of someone else ; about not making money tokens ; 
not using articles which are considered to be 
the property of others, and about many other 

All these laws and many others are extremely 
complex, and may have been passed from most 
diverse motives, but not one of them expresses 
the will of the whole people. There is but one 
characteristic common to all these laws, namely, 
that if any man does not fulfil them, those who 
have made these laws will send armed men, and 
the armed men will beat, deprive of freedom, or 
even kill, the man who does not obey the law. 

If a man does not wish to give, as taxes, such 
part of the produce of his labour as is demanded 

1 It must not be forgotten that conscription, with which 
we in England are only threatened, already exists in Russia. 


of him, armed men will come and take from him 
what is demanded, and if he resists he will be 
beaten, deprived of freedom, and sometimes even 
killed. The same will happen to a man who 
begins to make use of land considered to be the 
property of another. The same will happen to 
a man who makes use of things he wants to 
satisfy his requirements or to facilitate his work, 
if these things are considered to be the pro- 
perty of someone else ; armed men will come, and 
will deprive him of what he has taken, and, if 
he resists, they will beat him, deprive him of 
liberty, or even kill him. The same thing will 
happen to anyone who will not show respect to 
those whom it is decreed that we are to respect, 
and to him who will not obey the demand that 
he should go as a soldier, or who makes money 

For every non-fulfilment of the established 
laws there is punishment : the offender is sub- 
jected, by those who make the laws, to blows, to 
confinement, or even to loss of life. 

Many constitutions have been devised, begin- 
ning with the English and the American and 
ending with the Japanese and the Turkish, 
according to which people are to believe that 
all laws established in their country are estab- 
lished at their desire. But everyone knows that 
not in despotic countries only, but also in the 
countries nominally most free England, America, 


France, and others the laws are made not by 
the will of all, but by the will of those who have 
power, and therefore always and everywhere 
are such as are profitable to those who have 
power : be they many, or few, or only one man. 
Everywhere and always the laws are enforced 
by the only means that has compelled, and still 
compels, some people to obey the will of others, 
i.e. by blows, by deprivation of liberty, and by 
murder. There can be no other way. 

It cannot be otherwise. For laws are demands 
to execute certain rules ; and to compel some 
people to obey certain rules (i.e. to do what other 
people want of them) can only be effected by 
blows, by deprivation of liberty, and by murder. 
If there are laws, there must be the force that 
can compel people to obey them. And there is 
only one force that can compel people to obey 
rules (i.e. to obey the will of others) and that is 
violence ; not the simple violence which people 
use to one another in moments of passion, but 
the organised violence used by people who have 
power, in order to compel others to obey the 
laws they (the powerful) have made in other 
words, to do their will. 

And so the essence of legislature does not 
lie in Subject or Object, in rights, or in the 
idea of the dominion of the collective will of the 
people, or in other such indefinite and confused 
conditions ; but it lies in the fact that people 


who wield organised violence have power to com- 
pel others to obey them and do as they like. 

So that the exact and irrefutable definition of 
legislation, intelligible to all, is that : Laws are 
rules, made by people who govern by means of 
organised violence, for non-compliance with which 
the non-complier is subjected to blows, to loss of 
liberty, or even to being murdered. 

This definition furnishes the reply to the 
question : What is it that renders it possible for 
people to make laws ? The same thing makes it 
possible to establish laws, as enforces obedience 
to them, namely, organised violence. 



THE cause of the miserable condition of the 
workers is slavery. The cause of slavery is legisla- 
tion. Legislation rests on organised violence. 

It follows that an improvement in the con- 
dition of the people is possible only through the 
abolition of organised violence. 

"But organised violence is government, and 
how can we live without Governments ? With- 
out Governments there will be chaos, anarchy ; 
all the achievements of civilisation will perish and 
people will revert to their primitive barbarism." 

It is usual, not only for those to whom the 
existing order is profitable, but even for those 
to whom it is evidently unprofitable, but who 
are so accustomed to it that they cannot imagine 
life without governmental violence, to say we 
must not dare to touch the existing order of 
things. The destruction of government will, 
say they, produce the greatest misfortunes riot, 
theft, and murder till finally the worst men 



will again seize power and enslave all the good 
people. But not to mention the fact that all 
this i.e. riots, thefts, and murders, followed by 
the rule of the wicked and the enslavement of 
the good all this is what has happened, and is 
happening, the anticipation that the disturbance 
of the existing order will produce riots and dis- 
order does not prove the present order to be good. 

" Only touch the present order and the 
greatest evils will follow." 

Only touch one brick of the thousand bricks 
piled into a narrow column, several yards high, 
and all the bricks will tumble down and smash ! 
But the fact that any brick extracted, or any 
push administered, will destroy such a column 
and smash the bricks, certainly does not prove 
it to be wise to keep the bricks in such an 
unnatural and inconvenient position. On the 
contrary, it shows that bricks should not be 
piled in such a column, but that they should be 
arranged so that they may lie firmly, and so 
that they can be made use of without destroying 
the whole erection. It is the same with the 
present State organisations. The State organi- 
sation is extremely artificial and unstable, and 
the fact that the least push may destroy it, not 
only does not prove that it is necessary, but on 
the contrary shows that, if once upon a time it 
was necessary, it is now absolutely unnecessary, 
and is therefore harmful and dangerous. . 


It is harmful and dangerous because the effect 
of this organisation on all the evil that exists in 
society is not to lessen and correct, but rather 
to strengthen and confirm, that evil. It is 
strengthened and confirmed, by being either 
justified and put in attractive forms, or secreted. 

All that well-being of the people which we 
see in so-called well-governed States, ruled by 
violence, is but an appearance a fiction. 
Everything that would disturb the external 
appearance of well-being all the hungry people, 
the sick, the revoltingly vicious are all hidden 
away where they cannot be seen. But the fact 
that we do not see them, does not show that they 
do not exist ; on the contrary, the more they are 
hidden the more there will be of them, and the 
more cruel towards them will those be who are 
the cause of their condition. It is true that 
every interruption, and yet more every stoppage 
of governmental action, i.e. of organised violence, 
disturbs this external appearance of well-being 
in our life, but such disturbance does not pro- 
duce the disorder, but rather displays what was 
hidden and makes possible its amendment. 

Until now, say till almost the end of the 
nineteenth century, people thought and believed 
that they could not live without Governments. 
But life flows onward, and the conditions of life, 
and people's views, change. And, notwithstand- 
ing the efforts of Governments to keep people 


in that childish condition in which an injured 
man feels as if it were better for him to have 
someone to complain to, people especially the 
labouring people, both in Europe and in Eussia 
are more and more emerging from childhood 
and beginning to understand the true conditions 
of their life. 

"You tell us that but for you we shall be 
conquered by neighbouring nations : by the 
Chinese or the Japanese," men of the people 
now say ; " but we read the papers and know 
that no one is threatening to attack us, and that 
it is only you who govern us who for some 
objects, unintelligible to us, exasperate each other, 
and then, under pretence of defending your own 
people, ruin us with taxes for the maintenance 
of the fleet, for armaments, or for strategical 
railways, which are only required to gratify your 
ambition and vanity ; and then you arrange wars 
with one another, as you have now done against 
the peaceful Chinese. You say that you defend 
landed property for our advantage ; but your 
defence has this effect : that all the land either 
has passed or is passing into the control of rich 
banking companies which do not labour ; while 
we, the immense majority of the people, are being 
deprived of land and left in the power of those 
who do not labour. You, with your laws of 
landed property, do not defend landed property, 
but take it from those who work it. You say 


you secure to each man the produce of his labour, 
but you do just the reverse : all those who pro- 
duce articles of value, are, thanks to your pseudo- 
protection, placed in such a position that they 
not only never receive the value of their labour, 
but are all their lives long in complete subjection 
to, and in the power of, non-workers." 

Thus do people, at the end of the century, 
begin to understand and to speak. And this 
awakening from the lethargy in which Govern- 
ments have kept them, is going on in some 
rapidly increasing ratio. Within the last five or 
six years the public opinion of the common folk, 
not only in the towns but in the villages, and 
not only in Europe but also among us in Eussia, 
has altered amazingly. 

It is said that without Governments we 
should not have those institutions : enlightening, 
educational, and public, that are needful for all. 

But why should we suppose this ? Why 
think that non-official people could not arrange 
their life for themselves, as well as Government 
people can arrange it not for themselves but for 
others ? 

We see, on the contrary, that in the most 
diverse matters people in our times arrange their 
own lives incomparably better than those who 
govern them arrange things for them. Without 
the least help from Government, and often in 
spite of the interference of Government, people 


organise all sorts of social undertakings work- 
men's unions, co-operative societies, railway com- 
panies, artels, 1 and syndicates. If collections for 
public works are needed, why should we suppose 
that free people could not, without violence, volun- 
tarily collect the necessary means and carry out 
anything that is now carried out by means of 
taxes, if only the undertakings in question are 
really useful for everybody ? Why suppose that 
there cannot be tribunals without violence ? Trial, 
by people trusted by the disputants, has always 
existed and will exist, and needs no violence. We 
are so depraved by long-continued slavery, that we 
can hardly imagine administration without viol- 
ence. And yet, again, that is not true : Eussian 
communes migrating to distant regions, where our 
Government leaves them alone, arrange their 
own taxation, administration, tribunals, and 
police, and always prosper until governmental 
violence interferes with their administration. 
And in the same way there is no reason to 
suppose that people could not, by common agree- 
ment, decide how the land is to be apportioned 
for use. 

I have known people Cossacks of the Oural 
who have lived without acknowledging private 
property in land. And there was such well-being 

1 The artel, in its most usual form, is an association of 
workmen, or employes, for each of whom the artel is collec- 
tively responsible. (Trans.). 


and order in their commune as does not exist 
in society where landed property is defended by 
violence. And I now know communes that live 
without acknowledging the right of individuals 
to private property. Within my recollection 
the whole Eussian peasantry did not accept the 
idea of landed property. 1 The defence of landed 
property by governmental violence not merely 
does not abolish the struggle for landed property, 
but, on the contrary, intensifies that struggle, and 
in many cases causes it. 

Were, it not for the defence of landed pro- 
perty and its consequent rise in price, people 
would not be crowded into such narrow spaces, 
but would scatter over the free land of which 
there is still so much in the world. But, as 
it is, a continual struggle goes on for landed 
property ; a struggle with the weapons Govern- 
ment furnishes by means of its laws of landed 
property. And in this struggle it is not those 
who work on the land, but always those who 
take part in governmental violence, who have the 

1 Serfdom was legalised about 1597 by Boris Godunof, who 
forbade the peasants to leave the land on which they were 
settled. The peasants' theory of the matter was that they 
belonged to the proprietors, but the land belonged to them. 
"We are yours, but the land is ours," was a common saying 
among them till their emancipation under Alexander II., 
when many of them felt themselves defrauded by the arrange- 
ment which gave much laud to the proprietors. (Trans.). 


It is the same with reference to things pro- 
duced by labour. Things really produced by a 
man's own labour, and that he needs, are always 
protected by custom, by public opinion, by feel- 
ings of justice and reciprocity, and they do not 
need to be protected by violence. 

Tens of thousands of acres of forest lands 
belonging to one proprietor while thousands of 
people close by have no fuel need protection by 
violence. So, too, do factories and works where 
several generations of workmen have been de- 
frauded and are still being defrauded. Yet more 
do hundreds of thousands of bushels of grain, 
belonging to one owner, who has held them 
back to sell them at triple price in time of 
famine. But no man, however depraved except 
a rich man or a Government official would take 
from a countryman living by his own labour the 
harvest he has raised, or the cow he has bred, 
and from which he gets milk for his children, 
or the sokhds, 1 the scythes, and the spades he has 
made and uses. If even a man were found who 
did take from another articles the latter had 
made and required, such a man would rouse 
against himself such indignation, from everyone 
living in similar circumstances, that he would 
hardly find his action profitable for himself. A 
man so immoral as to do it under such circuni- 

1 The sokhd is a light plough, such as the Russian peasants 
make and use. (Trans.). 


stances, would be sure to do it under the strictest 
system of property defence by violence. It is 
generally said, " Only attempt to abolish the 
rights of property in land, and in the produce of 
labour, and no one will take the trouble to 
work, lacking assurance that he will be able 
to retain what he has produced." We should 
say just the opposite : the defence by violence of 
the rights of property immorally obtained, which 
is now customary, if it has not quite destroyed, 
has considerably weakened people's natural con- 
sciousness of justice in the matter of using 
articles, i.e., has weakened the natural and innate 
right of property, without which humanity could 
not exist, and which has always existed and still 
exists among all men. 

And, therefore, there is no reason to anticipate 
that people will not be able to arrange their lives 
without organised violence. 

Of course, it may be said that horses and bulls 
must be guided by the violence of rational beings 
men ; but why must men be guided, not by 
some higher beings, but by people such as them- 
selves ? Why ought people to be subject to the 
violence of just those men who are in power at a 
given time ? What proves that these people are 
wiser than those on whom they inflict violence ? 

The fact that they allow themselves to use 
violence towards human beings, indicates that 
they are not only not more wise, but less wise 


than those who submit to them The examinations 
in China for the office of Mandarin do not, we 
know, ensure that the wisest and best people should 
be placed in power. And just as little is this 
ensured by inheritance, or the whole machinery 
of promotions in rank, or the elections in consti- 
tutional countries. On the contrary, power is 
always seized by those who are less conscientious 
and less moral. 

It is said, " How can people live without 
Governments, i.e. without violence ? " But it should, 
on the contrary, be asked, " How can rational 
people live, acknowledging the vital bond of 
their social life to be violence, and not reason- 
able agreement ? " 

One of two things : either people are rational 
beings or they are irrational beings. If they are 
irrational beings, then they are all irrational, and 
then everything among them is decided by violence, 
and there is no reason why certain people should, 
and others should not, have a right to use viol- 
ence. And in that case, governmental violence 
has no justification. But if men are rational 
beings, then their relations should be based on 
reason, and not on the violence of those who 
happen to have seized power. And in that case, 
again, governmental violence has no justification. 



SLAVERY results from laws, laws are made by 
Governments, and, therefore, people can only be 
freed from slavery by the abolition of Govern- 

But how can Governments be abolished ? 

All attempts to get rid of Governments by 
violence have, hitherto, always and everywhere 
resulted only in this : that in place of the 
deposed Governments, new ones established 
themselves, often more cruel than those they 

Not to mention past attempts to abolish 
Governments by violence, according to the 
Socialist theory the coming abolition of the 
rule of the capitalists, i.e. the communalisation 
of the means of production, and the new economic 
order of society, is also to be instituted by a 
fresh organisation of violence, and will have to 
be maintained by the same means. So that 
attempts to abolish violence by violence, neither 
have in the past, nor, evidently, can in the future, 



emancipate people from violence, nor, conse- 
quently, from slavery. 

It cannot be otherwise. 

Apart from outbursts of revenge or anger, 
violence is used only in order to compel some 
people against tbeir own will to do the will of 
others. But the necessity to do what other 
people wish, against your own will, is slavery. 
And therefore as long as any violence, designed 
to compel some people to do the will of others, 
exists, there will be slavery. 

All the attempts to abolish slavery by violence, 
are like extinguishing fire with fire, stopping 
water with water, or filling up one hole by 
digging another. 

Therefore the means of escape from slavery, 
if such means exist, must be found not in 
setting up fresh violence, but in abolishing what- 
ever renders governmental violence possible. 
And the possibility of governmental violence, 
like every other violence perpetrated by a small 
number of people upon a larger number, has 
always depended, and still depends, simply on 
the fact that the small number are armed, while 
the large number are unarmed, or that the small 
number are better armed than the large number. 

That has been the case in all the conquests : 
it was thus the Greeks, the Eomans, the 
Knights, and Pizarros conquered nations, and it is 
thus that people are now conquered in Africa and 


Asia. And in this same way, in times of peace, 
all Governments hold their subjects in subjection. 

As of old so now, people rule over other 
people only because some are armed and others 
are not. 

In olden times, the warriors, with their chiefs, 
fell upon the defenceless inhabitants, subdued 
them, and robbed them ; and all divided the 
spoils in proportion to their participation, 
courage, and cruelty ; and each warrior saw 
clearly that the violence he perpetrated was 
profitable to him. Now, armed men (taken 
chiefly from the working classes) attack defence- 
less people : men on strike, rioters, or the 
inhabitants of other countries, and subdue them, 
and rob them (i.e. make them yield the fruits of 
their labour), not for themselves, the assailants, 
but for people who do not even take a share in 
the subjugation. 

The difference between the conquerors and the 
Governments is only, that the conquerors them- 
selves with their soldiers attacked the unarmed 
inhabitants, and, in cases of insubordination, 
carried their threats to torture and to kill into 
execution ; while the Governments, in cases of 
insubordination, do not themselves torture or exe- 
cute the unarmed inhabitants, but oblige others 
to do it, who have been deceived and specially 
brutalised for the purpose, and who are chosen 
from among the very people on whom the Govern- 


nient inflicts violence. Thus violence was formerly 
inflicted by personal effort : by the courage, cruelty, 
and agility of the conquerors themselves ; but 
now violence is inflicted by means of fraud. 

So that if, formerly, in order to get rid of 
armed violence, it was necessary to arm oneself 
and to oppose armed violence by armed violence, 
now, when people are subdued not by direct 
violence but by fraud, it is only necessary, in 
order to abolish violence, to expose the deception 
which enables a small number of people to 
exercise violence over a larger number. 

The deception by means of which this is done, 
consists in the fact that the small number who 
rule, on obtaining power from their predecessors, 
who were installed by conquest, say to the 
majority, " There are a lot of you, but you are 
stupid and uneducated, and cannot either govern 
yourselves or organise your public affairs, and 
therefore we will take those cares on ourselves : 
we will protect you from foreign foes, and arrange 
and maintain internal order among you ; we will 
set up courts of justice, arrange for you, and 
take care of, public institutions : schools, roads, 
and the postal service ; and, in general, we will 
take care of your well-being ; and in return for 
all this, you only have to fulfil certain slight 
demands which we make ; and, among other 
things, you must give into our complete control 
a small part of your incomes, and you must 


yourselves enter the armies which are needed 
for your own safety and government." 

And most people agree to this, not because 
they have weighed the advantages and dis- 
advantages of these conditions (they never have 
a chance to do that), but because from their 
very birth they have found themselves in con- 
ditions such as these. 

If doubts suggest themselves to some people 
as to whether all this is necessary, each one 
thinks only about himself, and fears to suffer if 
he refuses to accept these conditions ; each one 
hopes to take advantage of them for his own 
profit, and everyone agrees, thinking that by 
paying a small part of his means to the Govern- 
ment, and by consenting to military service, he 
cannot do himself very much harm. 

But as soon as the Governments have the 
money and the soldiers, instead of fulfilling their 
promises to defend their subjects from foreign 
enemies, and to arrange things for their benefit, 
they do all they can to provoke th6 neighbouring 
nations and to produce war ; and "they not only 
do not promote the internal well-being of their 
people, but they ruin and corrupt them. 

In the Arabian Nights there is a story of a 
traveller who, being cast upon an uninhabited 
island, found a little old man with withered legs 
sitting on the ground by the side of a stream. 
The old man asked the traveller to take him on 


his shoulders and to carry him over the stream. 
The traveller consented, but no sooner was the 
old man settled on the traveller's shoulders than 
the former twined his legs round the latter's 
neck, and would not get off again. Having con- 
trol of the traveller, the old man drove him 
about as he liked, plucked fruit from the trees, 
and ate it himself, not giving any to his bearer, 
and abused him in every way. 

This is just what happens with the people 
who give soldiers and money to the Govern- 
ments. With the money the Governments buy 
guns, and hire, or train up by education, sub- 
servient, brutalised, military commanders. And 
these commanders, by means of an artful system 
of stupefaction, perfected in the course of ages, 
and called discipline, make those who have been 
taken as soldiers into a disciplined army. Disci- 
pline consists in this, that people who are sub- 
jected to this training, and remain under it for 
some time, are completely deprived of all that is 
valuable in human life, and of man's chief attri- 
bute rational freedom and become submissive 
machine-like instruments of murder in the hands 
of their organised, hierarchical stratocracy. And 
it is in this disciplined army that the essence of 
the fraud dwells, which gives to modern Govern- 
ments dominion over the peoples. When the 
Governments have in their power this instrument 
of violence and murder, that possesses no will of 


its own, the whole people are in their hands, 
and they do not let them go again, and not only 
prey upon them, but also abuse them, instilling 
into the people, by means of a pseudo-religious and 
patriotic education, loyalty to, and even adoration 
of, themselves, i.e. of the very men who torment 
the whole people by keeping them in slavery. 

It is not for nothing that all the kings, 
emperors, and presidents esteem discipline so 
highly, are so afraid of any breach of discipline, 
and attach the highest importance to reviews, 
manoeuvres, parades, ceremonial marches, and 
other such nonsense. They know that it all 
maintains discipline, and that not only their 
power but their very existence depends on 

Disciplined armies are the means by which 
they, without using their own hands, accomplish 
the greatest atrocities, the possibility of perpetrat- 
ing which gives them power over the people. 

And therefore the only means to destroy 
Governments is not force, but it is the exposure of 
this fraud. It is necessary people should under- 
stand : First, that in Christendom there is no 
need to protect the peoples, one from another ; 
that the enmity of the peoples, one to another, 
is produced by the Governments themselves ; and 
that armies are only needed for the advantage 
of the small number who rule ; for the people 
it is not only unnecessary, but it is in the 


highest degree harmful, serving as the instru- 
ment to enslave them. Secondly, it is necessary 
people should understand that the discipline 
which is so highly esteemed by all the Govern- 
ments, is the greatest crime that man can 
commit, and is a clear indication of the crimin- 
ality of the aims of Governments. Discipline 
is the suppression of reason and of freedom in 
man, and can have no aim other than prepara- 
tion for the performance of crimes such as no 
man can commit while in a normal condition. 
It is not even needed for war when the war 
is defensive and national, as the Boers have 
recently shown. It is wanted, and wanted only, 
for the purpose indicated by William n. : for the 
perpetration of the greatest crimes fratricide 
and parricide. 

The terrible old man who sat on the traveller's 
shoulders behaved as the Governments do. He 
mocked him and insulted him, knowing that as 
long as he sat on the traveller's neck the latter 
was in his power. 

And it is just this fraud, by means of which 
a small number of unworthy people, called the 
Government, have power over the people, and 
not only impoverish them, but do what is the 
most harmful of all actions pervert whole 
generations from childhood upwards ; just this 
terrible fraud which should be exposed in order 
that the abolition of Government and of the 


slavery that results from it may become pos- 

The German writer, Eugen Schmitt, in the 
newspaper Ohne Stoat, which he published in 
Buda-Pesth, wrote an article that was profoundly 
true and bold, not only in expression but in 
thought. In it he showed that Governments, 
justifying their existence on the ground that 
they ensure a certain kind of safety to their 
subjects, are like the Calabrian robber-chief who 
collected a regular tax from all who wished to 
travel in safety along the highways. Schmitt 
was committed for trial for that article, but was 
acquitted by the jury. 

We are so hypnotised by the Governments 
that such a comparison seems to us an exaggera- 
tion, a paradox, or a joke ; but in reality it is 
not a paradox or a joke. The only inaccuracy 
in the comparison is that the activity of all 
the Governments is many times more inhuman, 
and, above all, more harmful, than the activity 
of the Calabrian robber. The robber generally 
plundered the rich ; the Governments generally 
plunder the poor and protect those rich men who 
assist in their crimes. The robber doing his 
work risked his life, while the Governments risk 
nothing, but base their whole activity on lies 
and deception. The robber did not compel any- 
one to join his band ; the Governments generally 
enrol their soldiers by force. All who paid the 


tax to the robber had equal security from 
danger. But in the State, the more anyone 
takes part in the organised fraud, the more he 
receives not merely of protection but also of 
reward. Most of all, the emperors, kings, and 
presidents are protected (with their perpetual 
bodyguards), and they can spend the largest 
share of the money collected from the tax-pay- 
ing subjects. Next in the scale of participation 
in governmental crimes come the commanders- 
in-chief, the ministers, the heads of police, 
governors, and so on, down to the policemen, 
who are least protected, and who receive the 
smallest salaries of all. Those who do not take 
any part in the crimes of Government, who 
refuse to serve, to pay taxes, or to go to law, 
are subjected to violence as among the robbers. 
The robber does not intentionally vitiate people ; 
but the Governments, to accomplish their ends, 
vitiate whole generations from childhood to 
manhood with false religious and patriotic 
instruction. Above all, not even the most cruel 
robber, no Stenka Razin, 1 no Cartouche, 2 can be 
compared for cruelty, pitilessness, and ingenuity 
in torturing, I will not say with the villain kings 
notorious for their cruelty, John the Terrible, 

1 The Cossack leader of a formidable insurrection in the 
latter half of the seventeenth century. (Trans.). 

3 The chief of a Paris band of robbers in the early years 
of the eighteenth century. (Trans.). 


Louis XL, the Elizabeths, etc., but even with 
the present constitutional and Liberal Govern- 
ments, with their solitary cells, disciplinary 
battalions, suppressions of revolts, and their 
massacres in war. 

Towards Governments, as towards Churches, 
it is impossible to feel otherwise than with 
veneration or aversion. Until a man has under- 
stood what a Government is, and until he has 
understood what a Church is, he cannot but feel 
a veneration for those institutions. As long 
as he is guided by them, his vanity makes it 
necessary for him to think that what guides 
him is something primal, great, and holy ; but 
as soon as he understands that what guides him 
is not something primal and holy, but that it is 
a fraud carried out by unworthy people, who, 
under the pretence of guiding him, make use of 
him for their own personal ends, he cannot but 
at once feel aversion towards these people ; and 
the more important the side of his life that has 
been guided, the more aversion will he feel. 

People cannot but feel this when they have 
understood what Governments are. 

People must feel that their participation in 
the criminal activity of Governments, whether 
by giving part of their work, in the form of 
money, or by direct participation in military 
service, is not, as is generally supposed, an in- 
different action, but besides being harmful to 


oneself and to one's brothers, is a participation 
in the crimes unceasingly committed by all 
Governments, and a preparation for new crimes 
which Governments, by maintaining disciplined 
armies, are always preparing. 

The age of veneration for Governments, not- 
withstanding all the hypnotic influence they 
employ to maintain their position, is, more and 
more, passing away. And it is time for people 
to understand that Governments not only are 
not necessary, but are harmful and highly im- 
moral institutions, in which an honest, self- 
respecting man cannot and must not take part, 
and the advantages of which he cannot and 
should not enjoy. 

And as soon as people clearly understand 
that, they will naturally cease to take part in 
such deeds, i.e. cease to give the Governments 
soldiers and money. And as soon as a majority 
of people ceases to do this, the fraud which 
enslaves people will be abolished. 

Only in this way can people be freed from 



" BUT all these are general considerations, and, 
whether they are correct or not, they are inap- 
plicable to life," will be the remark made by 
people accustomed to their position, and who do 
not consider it possible, or who do not wish, to 
change it. 

"Tell us what to do, and how to organise 
society ? " is what people of the well-to-do classes 
usually say. 

People of the well-to-do classes are so ac- 
customed to their role of slave-owners that when 
there is talk of improving the workers' condition, 
they at once begin (like our serf -owners before 
the emancipation) to devise all sorts of plans for 
their slaves, but it never occurs to them that 
they have no right to dispose of other people ; 
and that, if they really wish to do good to 
people, the one thing they can and should do is 
to cease to do the evil they are now doing. And 
the evil they do is very definite and clear. It is 
not merely that they employ compulsory slave- 



labour, and do not wish to cease from employing 
it, but that they also take part in establishing 
and maintaining this compulsion of labour. That 
is what they should cease to do. 

The working people are also so perverted by 
their compulsory slavery that it seems to most 
of them that if their position is a bad one, it is 
the fault of the masters, who pay them too little, 
and who own the means of production. It does 
not enter their heads that their bad position 
depends entirely on themselves, and that, if only 
they wish to improve their own and their 
brothers' position, and not merely each to do 
the best he can for himself, the great thing for 
them to do is themselves to cease to do evil. 
And the evil they do is that, desiring to improve 
their material position by the very means which 
have brought them into bondage, the workers 
(for the sake of satisfying the habits they have 
adopted), sacrificing their human dignity and 
freedom, accept humiliating and immoral em- 
ployment, or produce unnecessary and harmful 
articles, and, above all, they maintain Govern- 
ments, taking part in them by paying taxes, 
and by direct service and thus they enslave 

In order that the state of things may be 
improved, both the well-to-do classes and the 
workers must understand that improvement can- 
not be effected by safeguarding one's own 


interests. Service involves sacrifice, and there- 
fore, if people really wish to improve the 
position of their brother men, and not merely 
their own, they must be ready not only to alter 
the way of life to which they are accustomed, 
and to lose those advantages which they have 
held, but they must be prepared for an intense 
struggle, not against Governments, but against 
themselves and their families, and must be ready 
to suffer persecution for non-fulfilment of the 
demands of Government. 

And, therefore, the reply to the question 
What is it we must do ? is very simple, and 
not merely definite, but always in the highest 
degree applicable and practicable for each man, 
though it is not what is expected by those who, 
like people of the well-to-do classes, are fully 
convinced that they are appointed to correct, not 
themselves (they are already good), but to teach 
and correct other people ; and by those who, like 
the workmen, are sure that, not they (but only 
the capitalists) are in fault that their position 
is so bad, and think that things can only be put 
right by taking from the capitalists the things 
they use, and arranging so that all might make 
use of those conveniences of life which are now 
used only by the rich. The answer is very 
definite, applicable, and practicable, for it de- 
mands the activity of that one person, over 
whom each of us has real, rightful, and un- 


questionable power, namely, oneself ; and it con- 
sists in this, that if a man whether slave or 
slave-owner really wishes to better not his 
position alone, but the position of people in 
general, he must not himself do those wrong 
things which enslave him and his brothers. And 
in order not to do the evil which produces 
misery for himself and for his brothers, he should, 
first of all, neither willingly, nor under compulsion, 
take any part in Governmental activity, and should 
therefore be neither a soldier, nor a Field- Marshal, 
nor a Minister -of -State, nor a tax-collector, nor 
a witness, nor an alderman, nor a juryman, nor 
a governor, nor a Member of Parliament, nor, in 
fact, hold any office connected with violence. That 
is one thing. 

Secondly, such a man should not voluntarily 
pay taxes to Governments, either directly or in- 
directly ; nor should he accept money collected l>y 
taxes, either as salary, or as pension, or as a 
reward, nor should he make use of Govern- 
mental institutions supported by taxes collected 
by violence from the people. That is the second 

Thirdly, a man who desires not to promote his 
own well-being alone, but to better the position of 
people in general, should not appeal to Govern- 
mental violence for the protection of his possessions 
in land or in other things, nor to defend him and 
his near ones ; but should only possess land and all 


products of Ms own or other people's toil, in so far 
as others do not, claim them from him. 

" But such an activity is impossible : to refuse 
all participation in Governmental affairs, means 
to refuse to live " is what people will say. " A 
man who refuses military service will be im- 
prisoned ; a man who does not pay taxes will be 
punished, and the tax will be collected from his 
property ; a man who, having no other means of 
livelihood, refuses Government service will perish 
of hunger, with his family ; the same will befall 
a man who rejects Governmental protection for 
his property and his person ; not to make use of 
things that are taxed, or of Government institu- 
tions, is quite impossible, as the most necessary 
articles are often taxed ; and just in the same 
way it is impossible to do without Government 
institutions, such as the post, the roads, etc." 

It is quite true that it is difficult for a man of 
our times to stand aside from all participation in 
Governmental violence. But the fact that not 
everyone can so arrange his life as not to 
participate, in some degree, in Governmental 
violence, does not at all show that it is not 
possible to free oneself from it more and more. 
Not every man will have the strength to refuse 
conscription (though there are, and will be, such 
men), but each man can abstain from voluntarily 
entering the army, the police force, or the 
judicial or revenue service, and can give the prefer- 


ence to a worse paid private service rather than 
to a better paid public service. Not every man 
will have the strength to renounce his landed 
estates (though there are people who do that), 
but every man can, understanding the wrongful- 
ness of such property, diminish its extent. Not 
every man can renounce the possession of capital 
(there are some who do), or the use of articles 
defended by violence, but each man can, by 
diminishing his own requirements, be less and 
less in need of articles which provoke other 
people to envy. Not every official can renounce 
his Government salary (though there are men 
who prefer hunger to dishonest Governmental 
employment), but everyone can prefer a smaller 
salary to a larger one, for the sake of having 
duties less bound up with violence ; not every 
one can refuse to make use of Government 
schools l (though there are some who do), but 
everyone can give the preference to private 
schools, and each can make less and less use 
of articles that are taxed, and of Government 

Between the existing order, based on brute 
force, and the ideal of a society based on reason- 

1 With reference to schools, the circumstances are different 
in Russia to what they are in England. Free England has 
compulsory education ; Russia has not. But in Russia the 
Government hinders the establishment of private schools, and 
reduces even the universities to the position of Government 
institutions, watched by spies. (Trans.). 


able agreement confirmed by custom, there are 
an infinite number of steps, which mankind are 
ascending, and the approach to the ideal is only 
accomplished to the extent to which people free 
themselves from participation in violence, from 
taking advantage of it, and from being accustomed 
to it. 

We do not know, and cannot foresee, still less 
like the pseudo-scientific men foretell, in what 
way this gradual weakening of Governments 
and emancipation of the people will come about ; 
nor do we know what new forms man's life will 
take as the gradual emancipation progresses, but 
we do know certainly that the life of people 
who, having understood the criminality and 
harmfulness of the activity of Governments, 
strive not to make use of them, or to take part 
in them, will be quite different, and more in 
accord with the law of life and with our own con- 
sciences, than the present life, in which people 
while themselves participating in Governmental 
violence, and taking advantage of it, make a pre- 
tence of struggling against it, and try to destroy 
the old violence by new violence. 

The chief thing is, that the present arrange- 
ment of life is bad ; about that all are agreed. 
The cause of the bad conditions and of the 
existing slavery lies in the violence used by 
Governments. There is only one way to 
abolish Governmental violence ; it is that people 


should abstain from participating in violence. 
And, therefore, whether it be difficult or not to 
abstain from participating in Governmental 
violence, and whether the good results of such 
abstinence will, or will not, be soon apparent, 
are superfluous questions ; because to liberate 
people from slavery there is only that one way, 
and no other ! 

To what extent, and when, voluntary agree- 
ment confirmed by custom will replace violence 
in each society and in the whole world, will 
depend on the strength and clearness of people's 
consciousness, and on the number of individuals 
who make this consciousness their own. Each of 
us is a separate person, and each can be a parti- 
cipator in the general movement of humanity by 
his greater or lesser clearness of recognition of 
the aim before us, or he can be an opponent of 
progress. Each will have to make his choice ; 
to oppose the will of God, building upon the 
sands the unstable house of his brief and illusive 
life, or to join in the eternal deathless move- 
ment of true life in accord with God's will. 

But perhaps I am mistaken, and the right 
conclusions to draw from human history are not 
these, and the human race is not moving towards 
emancipation from slavery ; perhaps it can be 
proved that violence is a necessary factor of pro- 
gress, and that the State with its violence is a 
necessary form of life, and that it will be worse 


for people if Governments are abolished, and if 
the defence of our persons and property is 

Let us grant it to be so, and say that all the 
foregoing reasoning is wrong ; but besides the 
general considerations about the life of humanity, 
each man has also to face the question of his 
own life, and, notwithstanding any considerations 
about the general laws of life, a man cannot do 
what he admits to be, not merely harmful, but 

" Very possibly the reasonings showing the 
State to be a necessary form of the development 
of the individual, and Governmental violence to 
be necessary for the good of society, can all be 
deduced from history, and are all correct," each 
honest and sincere man of our times will reply ; 
" but murder is an evil, that I know more cer- 
tainly than any reasonings ; by demanding that I 
should enter the army, or pay for hiring and equip- 
ping soldiers, or for buying cannons and building 
ironclads, you wish to make me an accomplice 
in murder, and that I cannot and will not be. 
Neither do I wish to, nor can I, make use of money 
you have collected from hungry people with 
threats of murder ; nor do I wish to make use of 
land or capital defended by you, because I know 
that your defence of it rests on murder. 

" I could do these things : when I did not 
understand all their criminality, but when I 


have once seen it, I cannot avoid seeing it, and 
can no longer take part in these things. 

" I know that we are all so bound up by 
violence, that it is difficult to avoid it altogether, 
but I will, nevertheless, do all I can, not to take 
part in it : I will not be an accomplice to it, and 
will try not to make use of what is obtained and 
defended by murder. 

" I have but one life, and why should I, in 
this brief life of mine, act contrary to the voice 
of conscience and become a partner in your 
abominable deeds ? I cannot, and I will not. 

" And what will come of this I do not know. 
Only, I think no harm can result from acting as 
my conscience demands." 

So, in our time, should each honest and sincere 
man reply to all the arguments about the neces- 
sity of Governments and of violence, and to every 
demand or invitation to take part in them. 

The conclusion to which general reasoning 
should bring us, is thus confirmed to each in- 
dividual, by that supreme and unimpeachable 
judge the voice of conscience. 


" BUT this is again the same old sermon : on the 
one hand, urging the destruction of the present 
order of things without putting anything in its 
place, on the other hand, exhorting to non- 
action," is what many will say on reading what I 
have written. " Governmental action is bad, so 
is the action of the landowner, and of the man 
of business ; equally bad is the activity of the 
socialist, and of the revolutionary anarchists ; that 
is to say, all real, practical activities are bad, and 
only some sort of moral, spiritual, indefinite 
activity, which brings everything to utter chaos 
and inaction, is good." Thus, I know, many 
serious and sincere people will think and speak ! 

What seems to people most disturbing in the 
idea of no violence, is that property will not be 
protected, and that each man will, therefore, be 
able to take from another what he needs or 
merely likes, and to go unpunished. To people 
accustomed to the defence of property and person 
by violence, it seems that without such defence 
there will be perpetual disorder, a constant 
struggle of everyone against everyone else. 



I will not repeat what I have said elsewhere, 
to show that the defence of property by violence 
does not lessen, but increases, this disorder. But, 
allowing that in the absence of defence disorder 
may occur, what are people to do who have 
understood the cause of the calamities from 
which they are suffering ? 

If we have understood that we are ill from 
drunkenness, we must not (hoping to mend 
matters by drinking moderately) continue to 
drink, nor take medicines that shortsighted 
doctors give us and continue drinking. 

And it is the same with our social sickness. 
If we have understood that we are ill because 
some people use violence to others, we cannot 
improve the position of society either by con- 
tinuing to support the Governmental viol- 
ence that exists, or by introducing a fresh kind 
of revolutionary, or socialist violence. That 
might have been done as long as the fundamental 
cause of people's misery was not clearly seen. 
But as soon as it has become indubitably clear 
that people suffer from the violence done by 
some to others, it becomes impossible to im- 
prove the position by continuing the old violence, 
or by introducing a new kind. As the sick man 
suffering from alcoholism has but one way to be 
cured by refraining from intoxicants which are 
the cause of his illness, so there is only one 
way to free men from the evil arrangement of 


society, and that is to refrain from violence, the 
cause of the suffering, from preaching violence, 
and from in any way justifying violence. 

And not only is this the only way to deliver 
people from their ills, but we must also adopt it 
because it coincides with the moral consciousness 
of each individual man of our times. If a man 
of our day has once understood that every 
defence of property or person by violence is 
obtained only by threatening to murder or by 
murdering, he can no longer, with a quiet 
conscience, make use of that which is obtained 
by murder or by threats of murder, and still less 
can he take part in the murders, or in threaten- 
ing to murder. So that what is wanted to free 
people from their misery is also needed for the 
satisfaction of the moral consciousness of every 
individual. And, therefore, for each individual 
there can be no doubt that both for the general 
good, and to fulfil the law of his life, he must 
neither take part in violence, nor justify it, nor 
make use of it. 



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